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Australia Communications Government

Australian 'Electronic Pigeon Hole' Could Replace Gov't Snail Mail 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the arrives-through-a-series-of-tubes dept.
angry tapir writes "Australia's federal Opposition will look to create a national government-funded 'electronic pigeon hole' for all Australians in an effort to cut the costs of 'snail mail' communication, if they are returned to power at the next election. According to Opposition communications minister Malcolm Turnbull, the pigeon hole would effectively act as a life-long single source of storage for communications between each citizen and government. The service would be free for Australians in exchange for their agreeing to no longer receive paper-based communications from government agencies and other related organizations."
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Australian 'Electronic Pigeon Hole' Could Replace Gov't Snail Mail

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  • Wow, is that Australian for "web mail"? My opinion of their marketing skills just took a hit. "Hey everybody, have a pigeon hole!"
    • by __Paul__ (1570)

      No, it's the (conservative) Liberal party's term for webmail. They're a bunch of technophobic, clueless fuckwits, and Turnbull is the only one among them with any brain cells whatsoever.

    • by WindBourne (631190)
      They only have so many pigeon holes (n) which is less than the population (m), which leads to some being shared. This was just the principle of it.
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      No since "web mail" would imply you could use it to send and receive email to an from arbitrary email addresses.

      Whereas this would be purely for communication with the government. It would function just like a bog standard office pigeon hole in that respect, so why not name it as such?

  • Over our super fast national broadband network. OH WAIT, WRONG PARTY

    • by bug1 (96678)

      We dont need a fast national broadband network if we have all those pigeons.

      This is what RFC1149 was designed for.

    • by deniable (76198)
      Guess which one I'll see first. Maybe I should move to a marginal electorate.
  • None of the main players in Govt have any gasp of the issues, legal and otherwise, associated with the internet. The opposition leader doesn't believe that fibre networks can be upgraded to run at 1Gbps or faster.

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      He's still using a dial-up modem.

      Or possibly he's using RFC 6214.

  • If Australia can actually pull off building its national broadband megaproject then I'll be impressed enough with them to think they can do anything.

    • if these guys get in at the next election the whole project is pretty much gonna get shut down.
      • by mjwx (966435)

        if these guys get in at the next election the whole project is pretty much gonna get shut down.

        Worse yet, they have a plan to deliver our Telecom infrastructure back into the hands of an abusive private monopoly.

        He isn't called Abbott the Destroyer for nothing.

  • It's a special-purpose mail system, much like a corporate system. Content stays around forever, and it's only for sending to and from units of the Government.

    The real issue is winding down the postal system. Postal systems worldwide are sending fewer letters each year.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      The real issue is winding down the postal system. Postal systems worldwide are sending fewer letters each year.

      I think Anonymous (the LulSec branch) may be tempted to disagree with the "real issue".
      Wanna bet on the outcome in the context in which (TFA):

      Citizens would likely be given a name and date of birth as an account name for the service to be hosted on the country's Australia.gov.au domain.

      ?

      • by HJED (1304957)
        Um, you want the government to send tax information and other communications anonymously? The government already has this info and they already use it for this purpose all that is being proposed is a change of medium.
        • by martin-boundary (547041) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @04:38AM (#37116652)
          Changing the medium also changes responsibility. The postal service is a push system, a pigeon hole is a pull system. With the post, it's the sender's responsibility to make the communication occur, with a pigeonhole it's the receiver's responsibility to make the communication occur. And that will induce all sorts of legal changes over time, because the two modes are just not equivalent. Changing the medium in this case tips the power balance in favour of the government.
          • I don't follow, they are both sender "push" in that someone sends you something, they are both "recipient" pull in that the recipient needs to open their physical or electronic mailbox and read the contents.

          • by Dog-Cow (21281)

            Wow. You are a paranoid freak.

            Do you sit next to your mailbox and wait for the postal carrier each and every single day? I check my physical mailbox once a day, but I check my email several times an hour (slow work days).

            I fail to see how the government gets any more power with electronic delivery. They can already claim to have mailed you something even if they haven't, and I've never received registered mail from anyone, much less from a government entity.

            • I fail to see how the government gets any more power with electronic delivery. They can already claim to have mailed you something even if they haven't, and I've never received registered mail from anyone, much less from a government entity.

              Anyone can claim anything at any time, the point is that if it matters legally, then registered mail is proof of receipt, whereas just saying it was sent out is not.

              The point is that when a government entity (or anyone) sends you a normal letter, then that's

          • by Animats (122034)

            The postal service is a push system, a pigeon hole is a pull system.

            That depends on how far away your mailbox is. For me, FedEx and UPS are push systems, but the USPS mailbox is a quarter mile away.

  • That was late... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by irp (260932) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @01:57AM (#37115864)

    We've had this in Denmark for 5+ years. E-boks.dk - except it is not only government mail, but all official mail. My bank, insurance - even my salary slip from my company. Also I can upload my own scanned documents into the repository, where it will stay forever.

    I haven't received anything important in my mailbox for YEARS. I only check and empty it once every second week (only spam).

    The system is secured by the national "Nem-ID" (Easy-ID) system, which is a combination of a password and a one-time pad. Also used by my bank (and all other danish banks. I have an old account in another bank. Same login work for both).

    It took a while to get it all running smoothly, but it is really nice now it works. Added advantage is that electronic thefts (stolen login details etc.) from banks dropped to almost 0 nationwide since it was introduced.

  • I've been hoping for that around here for ten years. There isn't a single piece of letter mail that I need delivered in paper. I'll happily take an electronic format, and print it myself as needed. It'd be a lot easier for my post office to scan it than to deliver it. And certainly to send electronic documents in the first place where possible. Webmail, pop mail, my e-mail, or their e-mail, I couldn't care less. I just hate the idea of paying for a service at a government level that's really no longer

  • What for the cases in which:
    a. no reliable access to Internet or not owning a computer - the outback is huge
    b. persons that don't know how to operate a computer (even if they know very well how to break a horse).
    • That's why it's opt-in.

      • by c0lo (1497653)

        That's why it's opt-in.

        So, what if one opts-in and 2-3 years later wants to relocate in the outback?

        • by HJED (1304957)
          The NBN and related projects are supposed fix that problem (I think it's 99% or 95% fibre coverage and the rest by satellite). However if Turnbull's party get in whilst Abbott is still in charge of them, it probably won't happen.
        • Outback still has internet, slow and expensive yes but internet still
          • by c0lo (1497653)

            Outback still has internet, slow and expensive yes but internet still

            Let me guess: it will be my duty, as a responsible citizen, to throw in some money and get myself a slow but expensive internet connection? If the govt wants to get my post online, then its responsibility to get me proper internet.
            After paying the taxes, I don't understand why it should be me to pay extra... or is it the liberal party on the idea that the govt is a corporation, to externalize the costs as much as possible and get a higher profit?

            • by Dog-Cow (21281)

              I suppose that the idea of being able to opt-out never occurred to you. It's much easier to bash a government plan you have scant details of, just because you think it's cool to be anti-establishment.

        • or are injured and can no longer read or decide to spend a year in solitary meditation or the PC breaks down .... come on you raised a point and it got answered, move on

    • I think this is supposed to supplement standard mail. The electronic system would reduce a huge amount of load that is presently on the standard mail system deliveries all kinds of bills every day. Rural post offices probably wouldn't change a lot, but city post offices would find themselves with a hugely-decreased load and thusly save a lot of money (money that can help keep rural post offices open).

      • by Dog-Cow (21281)

        Assuming that the Australian Post doesn't operate much differently than the USPO, I'd say you have it exactly backwards. The USPO loses billions every year because they have no mail to deliver, not because they have too much of it. It's not as if the Post Office has a base income from which mail delivery costs must be paid. If there's no mail, there's no income.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      What for the cases in which:
      a. no reliable access to Internet or not owning a computer - the outback is huge
      b. persons that don't know how to operate a computer (even if they know very well how to break a horse).

      It's being done by the Liberal party.

      a. They dont care, people in the country suffer under the Libs anyway (but for some strange reason, vote for them).
      b. They dont care, Luddites will vote Lib and blame it on Labor.

      c. Abbott and Turnbull are complete idiots when it comes to technology, so much so they make Conroy look like a genius and as an IT&T worker in Oz, I dont have kind things to say about Conroy.

      • by c0lo (1497653)

        c. Abbott and Turnbull are complete idiots when it comes to technology, so much so they make Conroy look like a genius and as an IT&T worker in Oz, I dont have kind things to say about Conroy.

        Except the fact that he's quite a bulldog when it comes to defending NBN, neither can I find kind things to say about him.

  • I like the idea, but what I think this means, what is meant and what will be delivered are probably quite disparate.
  • So the coalition wants to give an electronic "pigeon hole" to every citizen which will allow communication from "government agencies and other related organizations". This sounds to me like a reboot of the National Identity [efa.org.au] system that the same government tried to create in 2006.

    • Exactly where my mind went. It may save money on the government printing and mail budget (I doubt it) but it smells of a trojan horse for a national ID number for all to abuse.
      • by gl4ss (559668)

        australia doesn't have a string identifier per citizen yet then(soc sec number or whatever, something assigned at birth to separate you as you)?

        around here(finland..) a system like this, electronic storage of the documents and multi office access, would be useful - for making it easier to prove what the local soc sec/unemployment/tax people communicated, to make it easier to get the legally entitled benefits. and this would help people who for some reason or another lose their paper communications, they cou

        • by throbber (72924)

          australia doesn't have a string identifier per citizen yet then(soc sec number or whatever, something assigned at birth to separate you as you)?

          Australia has a Tax File Number which you apply for when you start work -- or rather start paying tax. TFN is supposed to be confidential between you and the Tax Office, though in practice any organisation that has some effect on your taxable income will ask for it. Not having/providing a TFN means you'll be paying the highest tax rate.

          There were plans to create the Australia Card [wikipedia.org], back in the day, but it didn't get passed by the Senate and hence the TFN was born

  • For those who read this and think "Gee, wouldn't it be nice if we did this in the US", I've heard that getting official communications and financial statements in electronic form can really fuck you over. Perhaps someone can enlighten us as to exactly how (or inform me that I'm completely wrong).

    From what I recall hearing, though, when you get a credit card statement or a bank disclosure or a tax bill in hard copy via US mail it's a legal document; when you get a pdf of the same thing sent to your gmail i
    • I think the main issue is proving that you received something. If a registered letter is sent to a house and somebody must sign for it, or a representative of the court shows up at your house to hand you notice, then there is proof that it was delivered. For things like the shady photo-radar rackets (in the USA), they just mail you a notification asking you to pay & admit guilt via normal mail, and there's no actual evidence that you were ever notified.

      With this pigeon-hole system, it means that there

      • At which point you receive a threatening letter stating that not checking your inbox at least once every is a crime punishable by fine...

    • by nzac (1822298)

      This is not email over postage this is government keeping the communications on their server and letting you access it. As long as you trust your government not to mess with it has the advantages that everything is verifiable (i would expect to a greater level than postage letters) and if you lose or damage your printed off hard copy its still there.

      I think the best reason to receive by mail is that you don't have to sign anything to say its your responsibility to make sure you read it and having a paper co

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Those problems have been solved. You can implement a system that lets the sender know you have opened an email. In many ways it can be better then a signed letter.

      I think the USPS should start an official email system where they act as the middle man for trust account and a email escrow company.

  • Another source of spam, I mean political advertising , I mean public education campaigns.

    And the problem is you will have to trawl through it all to find the little things that you need to know, I mean if this is for ALL government communications, then that will include things like parking fines, speeding fines, rates notices, all notices to and from the tax office, and you will have no excuse for not knowing about it.

    • by zildgulf (1116981)
      Good grief! I hope we Americans don't adopt this! The last thing I want is Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin (who is working very hard in her cross country campaign to NOT run for President) to totally spam my inbox with their insane electronic diarrhea during their 2011-2012 campaign.
  • ONE inbox with all official government documents ever sent. If the government had a competent infrastructure to support it (with quintuply redundant backups etc etc) this could work extremely well.

    Furthermore, they could make this the official delivery mechanism for official documents, court orders, subpoenas, etc. No more shit lost in the mail.

    The primary problems :
    1. Privacy. A computer hacker who did breach the system could conceivably copy the entire database and expose the private files of

  • We already have something similar - it's that online centrelink stuff.

    The only difference is that we'll all get email addresses - which will in all likelyhood contracted out to gmail/outlook.com.

    I wonder what the email domain will be...
  • Hopefully the controversial (and I think stupid) Australian Internet Filter http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/06/24/052258/Australian-ISPs-To-Start-Filtering-the-Internet [slashdot.org] can do something for the people of Australia by black-banning this website which will no doubt be a source of many mass spam attacks on the Australian public at large... :-)
  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @05:19AM (#37116836)
    the government will be able to read all that mail. No more pesky envelopes or laws to stop them. NO THANKS.
    • by deniable (76198)
      The government reading the things they send you. That would be an improvement.
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      No way!!!!

      The government being able to read the things they send to you and you send to them. The horror!

      I much prefer a system in which they just guess what you sent them, and instntly forget everything they have ever told you before. Actually that is how the DMV seems to work here in NJ...

  • gosh they wouldn't want to even consider putting that money into something like health or education would they? the idea would warrant merit if it could actually save the government money, but look at the past record of government in managing contracts. they suck balls. there will always be snail mail from government whether they do this pigeon hole thing or not; it will merely create two systems that must be maintained (and paid for with taxes). get the national broadband thing going on time and on budge
  • Will the pigeon hole software only run on Windows like the failed etax program? Does that mean that any Australian who uses Linux or Mac will lose their citizenship?
  • As long as
    1. the Aussies will have pushed the broadband (even mobile will do) to every single family,
    2. the Aussies will have pushed at least a PC to every single family,
    3. each family will get enough e-literacy,
    4. there will be no centralized ass^H^H^Hpigeon hole.

    Quite simple for the 6th largest country [wikipedia.org] with only the 233rd population density [wikipedia.org]!
    Good luck!

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      It's opt-in so why would any of that be necessary?

      It's an attempt for the government to reduce some costs, and costs would be rescued with less than 100% opt-in.

      And of course there is that whole national broadband network thing they keep arguing about to election time.

  • Electronic Pigeon holes? Does that mean Australia will be using Electronic Carrier Pigeons? If so how fast can these Electronic Carrier Pigeons fly? Will they be like Borg Pigeons with laser eyes and integrated GPS tracking?
  • by markdavis (642305) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @07:19PM (#37124450)

    And what happens when the government decides later to no longer support your browser of choice, or your operating system? Or they use some proprietary plugin or software package that is incompatible with what you have?

    Are they going to pay for you to have a new computer, new software licensing, training?

    People can complain about snail-mail, but at least it has ZERO compatibility problems and has an extremely easy user interface...

  • Centrelink already runs such a system for welfare recipients and it sucks.

    Instead of just opening a letter you get an email or SMS to tell you that you have an electronic letter. Then you have to log into their website past a password and security question and download a PDF of the letter.

    The website is offline most Sundays and nights for routine maintenance. At other times it is overloaded and so slow that it hard to use. For a while some of the PDFs were corrupted and unreadable by either Foxit or Adobe.

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