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Minister Tanner's welcome

08 Dec 2008

I'm pleased to be able to join with the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy in welcoming you to the Government's first online consultation trial. There is a happy synergy in government using its first blog trial to deal with the important questions of the future of the digital economy, and Minister Conroy and his department deserve credit for their initiative in getting this consultation established.

As some of you may be aware, I've been talking about our plans to trial consultation blogs for some time now. This is the first of what will be several consultations taking place over the next six months, supplementing existing policy development processes.

While the primary aim of this blog is to get your feedback on aspects of the digital economy, we also want to use this opportunity to explore the mechanics of government blogging and hear your thoughts on how we should interact with you online.

We realise we're not trail blazers here—we know that there's nothing new about governments blogging, and that many jurisdictions have been doing so for some time. But instead of simply copying overseas models we are keen to gather as much evidence as we possibly can about how Australians want to engage online. My department has been active in this task all year (see for example our Consulting with Government—report). These trials are the next step in that process.

If you are saying to yourself 'how hard can it be for government to set up a blog?', remember that in public service terms online consultation is still pretty new, and not without its risks. We'd prefer to get it right incrementally than oversee a flash in the pan (although it's notable that some (such as, The Office of the President-Elect Obama) seem to be moving faster than others!).

We are also genuine about wanting to use online consultation to improve government-citizen relationships around public policy. We want real outcomes from online consultation, not a new channel to distribute a press release.

So this is a learning process. These are trials so we may get things wrong. But we hope to come out the other side with a better picture of how engaged, responsive, timely and comprehensive we need to be in order to engage effectively with citizens online.

Lindsay Tanner


Comments (787)

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I really have nothing positive to say about Conroy or his filter plan but hopefully take a break from saving the children and read my thoughts. I think the religious brigade should take their "think of the children" agenda should I put this...politely stick it where the sun don't shine. There is no mandate for this policy (except within religious community) no matter how much Conroy would like to believe so. I am completely against this filter and would appreciate if Conroy would stop courting the Hillsong vote under the guise of protecting the children. The majority of the population doesn't want this and it is my belief that Conroy is being disingenuous in pursuing a failed policy while continuing to waste tax-payers money. It is also my belief that Rudd should take Conroy to task over this ill-concieved furphy.

Posted by Christopher Bell / 24 Dec 2008 1:47pm / Permalink

Freedom of speech means a lot to me personally. I have voted Labour all my life. Even though it may sound like a drastic step to take my family and I will be leaving Australia if the filter is implemented. Obviously I will never vote labour again. The impact will most certainly be felt come next election there is NO DOUBT ABOUT THAT.

Posted by master huang / 24 Dec 2008 11:48am / Permalink

What a great idea (not). It could be good for all those vanishing adult book stores to get back on every street corner though. Maybe it would be easier to controll all those under the counter transactions that were so common. I think not. Surely there is another, cheaper way to stop these sites from appearing on the net in the first place.

Posted by Grant / 24 Dec 2008 11:14am / Permalink

I can't help but feel ashamed of my country now. I will be leaving Australia - the only country I've known as "home" - if this proposal goes though. If I were to stay, not only would I be circumventing this filter, but I would never vote Labor again - even if the proposal doesn't go through - and I have voted Labor my whole life.

Posted by Adam / 24 Dec 2008 10:51am / Permalink

Considering I work in a government department and their filtering system blocks bebo (the teenager's facebook) as 'porn' for some reason even though facebook is allowed, I don't trust mandatory internet filtering to decide what I'm allowed to view. I'm also not willing to continue to pay for ADSL2 that only works at dial up speeds, considering ACMA results indicate a possible slow-down in internet connection of almost 90%. Further, there are already filtering options available for anyone who cares to use them. You may mean well but I'm not comfortable with the possibility that I may not be able to research the beliefs of Muslim extremists for a university paper in a few years because the websites have been blocked as unwanted material. Leave the internet alone.

Posted by M Murray / 24 Dec 2008 9:24am / Permalink

I thought this was all a hoax when someone sent me a link on a proposed internet filter months back. I now realise its no joke, and I can't believe the government is serious about it. Bring on 2010 so I can vote you all out. What a bunch of morons!

Posted by Gavin / 24 Dec 2008 5:29am / Permalink

What is this? 1984? It's a classic book by George Orwell if anyone's reading this about how the government slowly strangles it's population into behaving in a nice controlled way. So let's become China, cuz they sure have less less crime and a happier population. I mean, what the hell are the big boys thinking? Go for compassion and altruism over power, because this the squeeze is just a few steps from the beginning. :( :( :( :( :( Fake wars on drugs and terror were the first two.

Posted by Matt / 24 Dec 2008 1:02am / Permalink

I'm just wondering if you even read this blog. CLEARLY the MAJORITY VOTE (yes; the majority vote that will decide if you stay or are thrown out very soon now) are opposed to this ridiculous waste of our money. Isn't it time to man-up and admit your scheme isn't going to work? Just drop it...

Posted by Brent / 24 Dec 2008 12:25am / Permalink

I am very much against any restrictions. People already call this department the department of censorship. That is not what we want. It's a waste of money, time, effort, and will only lead to suffering of those who try to help one another instead of those who try to hurt. Please stop your deep packet inspection, filtering of p2p. Not only do they not work, we the people do not want them. Maybe instead you can teach/educate the public/parents how to raise their children and what they can do to protect their children. If you haven't found out yet, the only way to help people for a lifetime is to educate them.

Posted by nnxion / 23 Dec 2008 11:52pm / Permalink

Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid - There's a hidden agenda here, just like green gas, the economy, NBN - total failures. This gov can't commit to what it promised. Your promises are what you got elected for, can't wait for 2010 and get rid of you.

Posted by JohnSimpton / 23 Dec 2008 3:56pm / Permalink

I know this has been said before, but I would like to know whis is it that if this filter is primarily to protect children, why must *everyone*, even the vast majority of Austrlian households which do not have small children, and Australian businesses be subject to such a filter?

Posted by kaflooey / 23 Dec 2008 1:31pm / Permalink

What is the point in rolling out a new national broadband network and then effectively strangling it with filters that will do little and be easily bypassed? Drop the filter or you'll be dropped next election!

Posted by jay / 23 Dec 2008 1:19pm / Permalink

It appears that the government wants to provide internet CENSORSHIP (not filtering) by maintaining a secret blacklist. It is all very well to say it is to protect the children, but the filters have all been shown not to work and not to block all undesirable material. So we have a situation where the parents are lulled into a false sense of security by the filter, and stop monitoring their child's internet use. The filter also does exactly nothing against the predators who use sites like facebook and chat rooms to groom their prey. I suggest implementing a filter will increase the opportunities for these sick individuals to carry out their pedophilia. At the same time we are talking about accidentally blocking legitimate sites. In a period of economic downturn do we really want to see some small net based businesses blacklisted and going broke? Thanks but no thanks.

Posted by Richary / 23 Dec 2008 11:56am / Permalink

I support the government on this. Keep up the good work to protect our kids. Those who are against the filter are putting personal "rights" above the right to live in a society that is safe. Go the filter.

Posted by Dan / 23 Dec 2008 10:57am / Permalink

This is a bit of a meta rant. This idea of filtering is flawed and stupid, but I have stated that elsewhere before. This blog idea is stupid. No interaction, no feedback, it is effectivly just throwing our contributions into a big bucket, no one will read this who will make any difference. Congratulations on setting up a strawman of intelligence.

Posted by Davetheking / 23 Dec 2008 9:43am / Permalink

As a network administrator and security advocate i see these measures as an incredible infringement on individual freedom and a violation of our civil liberties. no matter what challenges are in the way there is ALWAYS a way around them.

Posted by Pb / 23 Dec 2008 9:13am / Permalink

I do not support the plan to impose mandatory internet filtering.

I am stunned a plan such as this is even being proposed in Australia. How will the Australian people be able to call ourselves a democracy if we are not given to right to choose what we view on the internet? If I wanted the government to choose what is appropriate for me and my family, then I would move to China, Iran or North Korea.

Spending time and money to try stop people from seeing illegal content can only take away from the efforts to prevent that illegal content being made in the first place. If you really are interested in protecting the Australian people, we would be better served giving the proposed $40 million dollars to the Australian Federal Police to catch whoever it is that is making the illegal content.

Posted by David / 23 Dec 2008 1:44am / Permalink

We live in a democracy, this takes away the rights of all australians. Australia has dial up speed compared to other countries and this will slow our speed even more. The government cant ecpect this to work and everyone be happy.

Posted by teapot765 / 22 Dec 2008 10:16pm / Permalink

I have to ask the Senator, why would you introduce a policy that so many people are against? What is the real agenda here? The policy is so unpopular and unfairly targets those trying to do the right thing (if it is implemented) by slowing down internet speed.

Posted by Joshua / 22 Dec 2008 9:50pm / Permalink

How can a progressive country like Australia even be considering having our liberties severely diminished by such a draconian policy? If you want to stop child porn, track down the people downloading it and punish them, but leave the rest of us free to read and view what we like. I don't trust any government with a blacklist of banned sites; a secret blacklist no less. This has got to be stopped!

Posted by Mikey / 21 Dec 2008 12:26pm / Permalink

I am amazed that this government would attempt implimentation of this "Great Barrier". As a life long Labor voter and active supporter on election day, I am disillusioned and dissapointed in this decision. I can only hope the Greens keep the bas---s honest. I also believe this move will lose the government a large portion of the under 30s vote, something they will be dependant on in the next election. It is not the content you are trying to restrict that is the problem but the very concept. Think again or you may find this great BAND you are attempting to place around the internet ends up around your 'political' neck.

Posted by Amazed / 21 Dec 2008 9:52am / Permalink

Internet censorship (online content regulation): slows down the internet, undermines freedom of speech, doesn't prevent access to child pornography, will prevent access to legitimate sites, costs, say, $44m, is a terrible idea.

Posted by drillvoice / 20 Dec 2008 4:47pm / Permalink

I think this is a Blog is a very good move, in the right direction. All Government Departments at this level should have Blog's so that people with ideas, but lacking in the skills to bring them to the forfront, have a way of raising them. Good Luck with this Ed

Posted by Edward Savage / 20 Dec 2008 9:55am / Permalink

When will Australia stop pretending that it is not part of the global community? Censorship is a declaration of ignorance. grow up Conroy.

Posted by bushchime / 19 Dec 2008 8:12pm / Permalink

A few points about the blog which, overall, I believe is a step in the right direction. 1. usability - *familiarity* being the fundamental principle here. It is not consistent with other blog engines that we're all used to (such as WordPress). The navigation looks to be the main culprit here. It's a total mess. Probably because you're trying too hard to put it into some grand hierarchy scheme. 2. predominance - this blog is buried beneath government web layers. I believe it should be something seperate that stands out. If you really want to gather a community to discuss these issues, they need to think you're serious about it. Not just another government blog that no one (after the filter issue) is going to read/use. 3. boring - design wise certainly, but beyond that you need to keep things interesting content-wise. Words on a page send people to sleep unless they're passionate about the subject matter. At the moment the passion is here in the form of anger (filter! ;). When that fades, what's going to be left behind to keep people coming back here? Perhaps add some polls, some images, some social elements like Digg. Sorry, but it's called Web 2.0. Blogging and RSS feeds are just the start. 4. one-way - This is the pattern: you post, you get 100s of comments, none of which are follow-ups from you. Then you move onto the next topic, post again and then it all repeats. This is not a two-way conversation. We're getting nothing back. That's worse than getting "we don't agree" (with a reason) back. I suspect policies and procedures are going to hamper any individual in your department from swiftly posting a response. No doubt any such reply and new posts have to be carefully vetted first. So I suppose the best you can expect to manage is an incredbily efficient people-workflow to give something back as fast as possible. The bureaucracy is always going to keep you from the sort of efficiency other blogs enjoy though.

Posted by Dominic / 19 Dec 2008 7:55pm / Permalink

I make no comment about the moral issues involved in filtering content. I just wonder how the practicality of filtering coexists with the "minimum 12 meg" speeds mandated under NBN. Download speeds are only as fast as the slowest link in the chain, and a filter is inherently a choke point. It seems an idea that might make sense in theory but has unintended consequences that make it impractical.

Posted by Bruiser / 19 Dec 2008 3:19pm / Permalink

If you are seeking feedback, then I will simply convey that I am totally opposed to the government's plans to censor the Internet. For me, as for many people, this is a deal-breaker: I cannot support any government that wishes to arrogate such power, and I am not prepared to trust future administrations with it. Please reconsider this troubling and misguided policy.

Posted by Russell Blackford / 18 Dec 2008 11:35pm / Permalink

Australia is a signatory to the UN Delaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of that document states; Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Read to last part again "seek, receive and impart information through any media..."

Posted by sjmilne / 18 Dec 2008 2:28pm / Permalink

I was not sure if I had noticed correctly or but I thought I had seen that the government is going ahead with clean feed (internet filtering) I would be greatly interested in how this expected to work. Whilst some sites can be objectionable or offensive in some way or anther, not all are. And itís going to be a problem for anyone who is not targeted as people who need protection. Further more not everyone who uses the internet needs protection or is likely cause a problem for others i.e. mainly phishing, malware, attacks. So certainly I would like if could my freedom to do be able to use the internet just like have done for some time. I know perfectly I donít protection. So really the internet should not be censored otherwise people may have their internet access reduced when there is little or need to. On a separate note still internet related, it would be for broadband to be reachable by all Australians dialup is really and I hate slow internet connections. Broadband should made available to Australians and affordable.

Posted by Snowflake / 18 Dec 2008 2:24pm / Permalink

I don't want my taxes funding something that dimishes my freedoms and slows my access to unfiltered information.

Posted by Lloyd / 18 Dec 2008 2:16pm / Permalink

I have a business and we employ 6 people and are expanding quite nicely.We are totally dependent on a fast internet to stay competitive. I love the freedom hate child porn but find the filter an unacceptable burden. I am about to employ another five people but am considering moving the whole lot overseas. NZ or the like.No internet filter.

Posted by ANGE99 / 18 Dec 2008 12:33pm / Permalink

If 9/10 posts have not been posted due to inappropriate language and 99/100 internet users are concerned but are just too lazy to do anything, the amount of people posting because they are concerned would then be approximately 1000 fold what we are actually seeing.

Posted by AL / 17 Dec 2008 9:55pm / Permalink

If the government has a list of illegal sites which include child porn why don't they do something about it ? Find out what countries the URLs are from, contact the authorities in the various countries and have these sites shut down and these perverts arrested. OR is the reason why this can't happen is because these sites come up faster than we can shut down. If this is the case how can a "black list" which needs to reviewed before anything is entered ever keep up ? Everything in the list would no longer exist by the time it is entered into the list so what is the point.

Posted by ML / 17 Dec 2008 9:39pm / Permalink

History appears to repeat itself over and over again. It appears there are two things people in the western world are afraid of, terrorism and child porn. As long as the governments of the world justify they are fighting either of the two, people just nod their heads while their freedom and rights are pulled away from beneath them. We need to voice our concerns to our governments that there are ways to fight evils in this world without compromising our freedom, rights and of course our much loved internet speeds.

Posted by Michael / 17 Dec 2008 7:51pm / Permalink

There's only one reason I can think of as to why the government wants to filter the internet; To pander to TV execs and PR firms who are afraid that fast broadband internet will eventually erode their advertising revenue. Well of course it will, nobody likes having to sit through that many commercials just to watch a crappy TV show, we're better off downloading our entertainment. So they lobby the government to somehow make the internet slower and use the propaganda like excuse that we need internet filtering to save our souls. If the government eventually do make internet filtering mandatory, then we should lobby the government to make TV execs and PR people illegal. Or just punish them with death by stoning... ...Well not really but that's how I feel. Why aren't we in the streets burning cars and damaging property like the French do?

Posted by PeteY / 17 Dec 2008 2:31pm / Permalink

Filtering our internet is draconian. I'd rather my kids see what is out there on the internet than watch the news.

Posted by Concerned / 17 Dec 2008 11:56am / Permalink

I support the arguments against the Clean Feed filter, if this filter becomes implemented there will be a *LOT* of unhappy people in Australia and tourism will also suffer because who wants to visit a country where the internet is censored? Thats just the beginning. The internet is the only hope for humanity filtering it will only hinder progress and cause problems. Please oppose internet censorship, Thank you.

Posted by Los Kurri / 17 Dec 2008 12:25am / Permalink

I have long thought about the governmentís internet filter plans and on hearing about this blog, I decided to write of my concerns. I must be a dill. I couldn't find the blog by going to I had to revert to Google. But I digress, If a body like AISA (Australian Information Security Association) doesnít think a filter is a good idea, then I think their opinion should be afforded significant weight, by the government. Firstly, I am against the filter because of its mandatory nature for all ISPs. I know it is illegal to view child pornography over the Internet and I believe it is my responsibility to abide by the law or suffer the consequences. I donít need the government to be my conscience. I do not have any children but if I did it is my responsibility as a parent to see they have a strong moral code and will become law abiding citizens. I donít need the government to ďsayĒ what sites may be accessed and what may not be. Secondly, what happens if all customers of an ISP do not want their Internet access filtered? Would that ISP be exempted from applying the filter? A condition of using such an ISP is being wiling to accept unfiltered Internet access? To maintain my current Internet speeds, I am willing to accept unfiltered Internet content. Surely, it is a personís choice as to whether they want certain sites blocked or not. Thirdly, I ask what sites are to be blocked and how? Also, what will determine how sites are to be added to the filtered list? What will stop future governments from doing what China has done in the past, blocking access to all overseas sites. For transparency reasons, surely the government should publish the list of sites that are being filtered / blocked. Finally, I am against the introduction of a filter because of the negative impact it will have on the speed I can access the Internet. Every time I access the Internet the filter would need to be applied. Who says that a site cannot contain both legitimate and illegitimate content? Surely the list of sites to be filtered will grow rapidly, as sites that are filtered are set up under new URLs. Old sites would need to be left on the list, just in case the owners go back to using them.

Posted by itsjustme / 16 Dec 2008 7:19pm / Permalink

Congratulations to senator Conroy for having the balls to stand up to Telstra. Consumers will benefit from some competition to the Gorilla.

Posted by prey / 16 Dec 2008 7:15pm / Permalink

I find it rather pathetic that you only have done this because Obama is doing it overseas. Thanks for the heads up on your ignorance and lack of insight/initiative, Lindsay Tanner & Co.

Posted by Ben / 16 Dec 2008 6:14pm / Permalink

Dear Prime Minister, I feel obliged to advise you that your plan to censor the internet (against the wishes of 80% of the electorate) is an extremely ďcourageousĒ policy and one upon which you will have ample free time to reflect after the next election, when you are returned to opposition. I don't understand why your government cannot see the huge danger in allowing an ignorant and incompetent minister (who is so clearly out of his depth) to pander to a few crackpots in the Senate and attack the basic rights of all Australians in a supposedly democratic society. This policy, apart from being stupid, wrong and impossible to implement effectively, will anger and alienate almost all young Australian voters (and future voters) - and many older ones too, I am 63. I can assure you that the vast majority of Australians find the concept of allowing a public servant (acting on the beliefs of extremists) to dictate what information is suitable for them to access, to be highly offensive and insulting. If you proceed with this terrible plan, I and hundreds of thousands of others will never vote Labor again. Wake up and see the reality before it is too late to back down - and implement a cabinet reshuffle to weed out the deadwood. Geoff Sole

Posted by Sir Humphrey Appleby / 16 Dec 2008 4:34pm / Permalink

While I don't have anything new to add, I need to add another voice in opposition to a poorly thought out idea. The list of problems with this "plan" is long (and I use the word loosely, because the plan to invade iraq had more thought put into it), but here's a short synopsis: 1) The usage of a blacklist that is updated whenever the "regulator" feels like it, without the public even knowing what is being blocked (such as online gambling sites, like one of the independants is pushing. How about political sites. maybe Al Jazeera news) 2) most child porn sharing happens outside websites anyway, so this filter isn't going to catch anything. 3) If this is really about child porn, then why not *just* block child porn? I can guarantee there won't be any opposition to just blocking child porn. 4) it *REALLY* concerns me that Conroy has not given a straight answer to any question about the internet filtering... either he doesn't know or, worse, he knows that if he gives us the details of his plan that there would be an even bigger public outcry. I work in an industry where looking up topics such as "rape counselling for children" is a legitimate websearch... but will the filter know that, or just blindly block me from being able to access the services that are so desperately needed? The list goes on, but maybe.. just maybe... there are enough ministers out there to sink this abortion of a plan before it goes into effect.

Posted by Draven / 16 Dec 2008 3:51pm / Permalink

i support the filter, i think 99% of those whinging are doomsayers who just love to whinge... I know how filters work, I do it for a job everyday they are a lot smarter then people make out.. I dont need 99% of the crap on the internet as it is and i think the information junkies out there don't either simplify and ditch the crap.. the internet is not as important as our modern society makes out, imo its bringing on radical changes that will result in some very sour days ahead, people need to be controlled to a certain degree. Josh

Posted by Josh Saunders / 16 Dec 2008 3:17pm / Permalink

Just so you have some feedback. The internet filter will not block chat rooms and secure networks used by cp but if want to look up sperm whales it will be blocked. I have voted labor all my life but if this bill gets thru I will NEVER vote for labor again. Next election could be a lot closer.

Posted by gp / 16 Dec 2008 12:43pm / Permalink

I agree with Alex C totally. For most of my adult life I have passionately held the belief that an ALP government was better than the alternative. But with the advent of a plan of ISP level censorship, I find this belief challenged to the point of breaking. Senator Conroy's ongoing refusal to participate in the discussion of this plan in any meaningful way leaves us with no alternative but to think the worst.

Posted by Sam D / 16 Dec 2008 12:23pm / Permalink

I think it's great that federal politicians have finally discovered the internet, but am very concerned about the dark side to this revelation - Conroy's moronic plan to censor Australia's internet access. Let me be very clear. I have been a Labor voter all my life - but I will not vote for Labor again until Conroy's internet censorship plan is dropped. This is the only major issue that would change my vote from Labor. I want to see the Prime Minister announce that the plan has been permanently dropped, sack Conroy, and apologise to the Australian people for allowing his government to follow in the footsteps of Iran and China.

Posted by Alex C / 16 Dec 2008 9:09am / Permalink

I'm not nearly up to speed on the state of the issue of implementing the Internet Censorship in Australia, but wanted to add my voice against it. As it stands the system would accidentally block 1 in 12 sites, and miss the majority of inappropriate content. If you were to carry this analogy into the health system, proposing a nation-wide screening program for individuals that gave 1 in 12 a false positive, and missed half the disease, the health department wouldn't dream of instigating it. Especially if it increased the cost of healthcare while decreasing its efficiency. At the end of the day, it's not a role of the government to deem what information is or isn't appropriate.

Posted by Stephen / 15 Dec 2008 11:57pm / Permalink

The blogging is a great move, finally something to help me regain some faith in Labour. The obvious technical illiteracy of our minister for broadband has forced this life-long labour supporter to change his vote. Anyone with an ounce of technical literacy knows that internet filters are ineffective and dangerous to democracy and human freedom. In an age where the internet will make and break economies it seems ridiculous that this is even being considered. As for the access to pornography and other illegal content, simply asking any high school student will show that this filter will do nothing to achieve its aim as it is impotent against P2P technologies. There are numerous ways around filters that can be found with less than a minute on google, and children are more than capable of doing that if they wish. The only thing achieved, therefore, is reduced performance for all with none of the protection aimed at. Oh, and a vast waste of resources. Research shows that the chance of children stumbling on porn unwanted is extremely low and is not likely to be helped by a filter because such exposure is generally in the form of adult advertising, something simple URL blocking will not rectify. I have written to numerous people and all I have received is stock replies that did nothing to address any of the issues. I am hopeful this blog will be the start of a change to informed policy making.

Posted by Rahux / 15 Dec 2008 11:44pm / Permalink

The way Senator Conroy has handled himself in regards to this mandatory net filter has been disgraceful. Instead of acting smug in parliament, how about answering some of Senator Ludlam's questions and being honest to the rest of the public? Bloody disgrace mate, to us and even worse, to the rest of the world. You should hand in your resignation for this farce, since you seem to lack the technical and political knowledge required to be a decent communications minister.

Posted by Ivan / 15 Dec 2008 11:23pm / Permalink

The following simple question has not been answered by this Government: What does the proposed ISP filter do to protect children that either a) A client-side software filter, or b) proper parenting (for instance, placing the family computer in the living room) can't do? The answer is just as simple: Nothing.

Posted by Daniel C / 15 Dec 2008 9:31pm / Permalink

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