Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Repeat after me: Australia is a low-taxing country, a low-taxing country.....


“Australia is a low-taxing country. While tax debate in Australia tends to focus on tax rates, with endless comparisons of different countries’ rates of different taxes, these debates ignore the fact that Australia raises far less tax revenue than most developed countries.

This is not a problem in itself. There is no right or wrong level of taxation. However, the level of tax revenue raised inevitably affects governments’ ability to fund essential services such as health, education, social security, defence and infrastructure. Polling consistently shows that the Australian public would prefer higher levels of spending on public services than lower tax collection.” [The Australia Institute, 17 April 2018]

In two weeks time a federal government ideologically glued to cutting company tax and spending big on infrastructure on the back of ever-decreasing taxation revenue will deliver its 2018-19 Budget Papers.

So Prime Minister Turnbull and Treasurer Morrison will ignore polls like this one, because the only voters with influence are found in the ranks of political donors, big business and industry.

The Australia Institute, 18 April 2018:


Small government has small support - National poll

A large national poll of 1,557 Australians, released today by think tank The Australia Institute, has shown 64% of people want more public spending funded by tax revenue. Just 11% want lower taxes and less public spending.

* Two-thirds (64%) said they would prefer more public spending, funded by more tax
   revenue, and less inequality.

* Only 11% said they wanted lower public spending, lower tax and more inequality.

* A majority of voters for all parties selected the more spending and more tax option:

* 56% of both PHON voters and Other voters;
* 60% of LNP voters;
* 71% of ALP voters;
            * 75% of Green voters.


Polling Brief - April 2018 - more or less spending tax inequality.pdf

P521 Australia a low tax country.pdf

Hank Jorgen and Centrelink unleash the dogs…..


Forget establishing that an actual debt exists – this is 2018 and come hell or high water the Turnbull Government wants to use Centrelink to prop up its financial bottom line in time for the May 2018 budget papers.

BuzzFeed News, 20 April 2018:

Tony Johnson says he received a threatening phone call last month from a private debt collector looking to recover an overdue Centrelink debt. Turns out, they had the wrong Tony Johnson.

Johnson told BuzzFeed News the call was from someone identifying themselves as working for a company called Australian Receivables. The caller told Johnson he had a Centrelink debt that needed to be repaid immediately.

As it happened there were two Tony Johnsons living within the same postcode, and the caller had contacted the wrong one.

Private debt collection agency Australian Receivables has a $2.5 million contract with Centrelink as part of the government's controversial robo-debt recovery program.

As BuzzFeed News revealed last week, the third party debt collectors work on commission based on the amount they recover from Centrelink clients, not a flat rate. The more money the companies collect, the bigger their commission.

Tony Johnson claims he was called continuously by people purporting to represent Australian Receivables. He also says neighbours and family members were approached in a bid to track him down.

"It gets annoying after a while," he told BuzzFeed News.

Johnson says he contacted Australian Receivables to find out how they got his phone number, and was told it was via a company called Detective Desk.

Detective Desk is registered in the United States but operates from the Philippines. The company claims to own information about millions of Australians.

Detective Desk allows debt collection agencies to trawl data files to track and chase outstanding debts from Centrelink clients.

The Detective Desk website says it collects, holds, uses and discloses information about Australians including full names; dates of birth; driving licence numbers; gender; current and previous addresses; court judgements; employment histories; phone numbers; and any other information it says is publicly available.

The company sources and collects data from a number of third parties including search engines, social media networks, electoral rolls, insurers, law courts and direct marketing companies.

There's no guarantee the information supplied is correct, and that's how Johnson believes he became the victim of mistaken identity.

BACKGROUND

The Canberra Times, 9 June 2017:

Centrelink's controversial robo-debt program has been blamed for a huge surge in legal challenges by people facing the welfare agency's demands for money.

Centrelink debt cases at the federal appeals tribunal have soared by more than 50 per cent since mid-2016 and The Greens have laid the blame for the surge, which might take years to work its way through the system, squarely at the feet of robo-debt.

For more examples go to  
https://twitter.com/not_my_debt 
or 
https://www.notmydebt.com.au/stories/notmydebt-stories

Monday, 23 April 2018

Away from the spotlight of congressional hearings Zuckerberg and Facebook Inc. show their true colours – implementing weaker privacy protection for 1.5 billion users


The Guardian, 19 April 2018:

Facebook has moved more than 1.5 billion users out of reach of European privacy law, despite a promise from Mark Zuckerberg to apply the “spirit” of the legislation globally.

In a tweak to its terms and conditions, Facebook is shifting the responsibility for all users outside the US, Canada and the EU from its international HQ in Ireland to its main offices in California. It means that those users will now be on a site governed by US law rather than Irish law.

The move is due to come into effect shortly before General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in Europe on 25 May. Facebook is liable under GDPR for fines of up to 4% of its global turnover – around $1.6bn – if it breaks the new data protection rules.

The shift highlights the cautious phrasing Facebook has applied to its promises around GDPR. Earlier this month, when asked whether his company would promise GDPR protections to its users worldwide, Zuckerberg demurred. “We’re still nailing down details on this, but it should directionally be, in spirit, the whole thing,” he said.
A week later, during his hearings in front of the US Congress, Zuckerberg was again asked if he would promise that GDPR’s protections would apply to all Facebook users. His answer was affirmative – but only referred to GDPR “controls”, rather than “protections”. Worldwide, Facebook has rolled out a suite of tools to let users exercise their rights under GDPR, such as downloading and deleting data, and the company’s new consent-gathering controls are similarly universal.

Facebook told Reuters “we apply the same privacy protections everywhere, regardless of whether your agreement is with Facebook Inc or Facebook Ireland”. It said the change was only carried out “because EU law requires specific language” in mandated privacy notices, which US law does not.

In a statement to the Guardian, it added: “We have been clear that we are offering everyone who uses Facebook the same privacy protections, controls and settings, no matter where they live. These updates do not change that.”

Privacy researcher Lukasz Olejnik disagreed, noting that the change carried large ramifications for the affected users. “Moving around one and a half billion users into other jurisdictions is not a simple copy-and-paste exercise,” he said.

“This is a major and unprecedented change in the data privacy landscape. The change will amount to the reduction of privacy guarantees and the rights of users, with a number of ramifications, notably for consent requirements. Users will clearly lose some existing rights, as US standards are lower than those in Europe.

“Data protection authorities from the countries of the affected users, such as New Zealand and Australia, may want to reassess this situation and analyse the situation. 

Even if their data privacy regulators are less rapid than those in Europe, this event is giving them a chance to act. Although it is unclear how active they will choose to be, the global privacy regulation landscape is changing, with countries in the world refining their approach. Europe is clearly on the forefront of this competition, but we should expect other countries to eventually catch up.” [my yellow highlighting]

NOTE:

The Australian Dept. of Human Services still continues to invite those who use its welfare services to visit its five Facebook pages on which it will:


* post about payments and services 

* answer questions 
* give useful tips 
* share news, and 
* give updates on relevant issue

All associated data (including questions and answers) will of course be captured by Facebook, then collated, transferred, stored overseas, monetised and possibly 'weaponised' during the next election campaign cycle which occurs in the area visitors to these pages live.


Micaelia Cash's bragging doesn't change the Abbott-Turnbull 'jobs and growth' numbers


On Thursday 19 April 2018 the Australian Minister for Jobs and Innovation and Liberal Senator for Western Australia Micaelia Cash stated: Since the Government came to office in September 2013, we have created a total of 996,800 jobs — an increase of 8.7 per cent.

What stands out for this voter is the small degree of change that has actually occurred when it come to those much vaunted 'jobs and growth' policies.

Bottom line is that in the years between the 2013 federal election when the Coalition Government came to power and the present day, the national unemployment rate has only fallen by half a percentage point and there are only four less job seekers competing for each job that becomes available.

In January 2014 the Australian population totalled est. 22.63 million, Tony Abbott had been prime minister for less than four months and seasonally adjusted there were an est.11,459,500 employed people across the country. This figure included wage employees, private contractors and business operators.

Up to an est. 1.5 million workers were being paid the National Minimum Wage.

Only 69 per cent of the 11.54 million had full-time jobs. Full-time employment decreased 7,100 to 7,953,000 and part-time employment increased 3,400 to 3,506,500.

Around 951,000 of these 11.45 million people in employment would be classified as underemployed, ie. they were employed in less than full-time or regular jobs or in jobs inadequate with respect to their training or economic needs. 

The workforce participation rate stood at 64.5% and the unemployment rate was 6.0%.

There were est. 728,600 people between 15 and 65 years of age who were unemployed and looking for work.

A total of 139,100 and 142,700 job vacancies were recorded for the months November 2013 and February 2014 respectively.

In January-February 2014 it was reported that there were 20 job seekers for every position currently available.

In March 2018 the Australian population totalled est. 24.90 million, Malcolm Turnbull had been prime minister for more than two years and there were seasonally adjusted an est.12,484,100 employed people across the country. This figure includes wage employees, private contractors and business operators.

Up to est. 1.8 million of these workers were being paid the National Minimum Wage.

Only 68 per cent of the 12.48 million had full-time jobs. Full-time employment decreased 19,900 to 8,514,100 and part-time employment increased 24,800 to 3,970,000.

Around 1.03 million of these 12.48 million people in employment would be classified as underemployed, ie. they were employed in less than full-time or regular jobs or in jobs inadequate with respect to their training or economic needs. It is likely that around 3 per cent  of this group were employed in low-paying and insecure jobs via federal government Jobactive placements.

The workforce participation rate stood at 65.5% and the unemployment rate was 5.5%.

There were est. 730,200 people between 15 and 65 years of age who were unemployed and looking for work.

There had been 220,800 job vacancies recorded by the end of February 2018.

In March 2018 it was reported that there were 16 job seekers for every position currently available.


Sunday, 22 April 2018

How long can the world sustain the current level of commercial and recreational fishing?


A vast majority of Australian households have seafood meals throughout the year.



According to the Dept. of Agriculture Australia has the world’s third largest Exclusive Economic Zone. However, the low productivity of our marine waters limits wild capture fisheries production

This meant that by 2015 an estimated 70 per cent of the seafood we consumed was imported from other fisheries around the world.

In 2016 the United Nations expected fish stocks in oceans and inland waters to significantly contribute to feeding a global population predicted to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 – even though at least 31.4 percent of fish stocks were estimated as fished at a biologically unsustainable level and therefore overfished and, there has been a general decline in global fish take since 1996. [Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, 2016 The State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture]

Since then there have been reports that competition with fishing fleets for the remaining Chinook salmon has led to a resident population of Orca experiencing sustained near starvation and studies are now showing that in human-dominated marine ecosystems loss of populations and species is occurring.

Despite the global situation Australians are still being encouraged to eat more seafood, but how long can this continue?

In 2018 another study was published which looked at ocean processes over the next 282 years and this study predicts that the global fish catch will continue its current decline.

Phys Org, 19 April 2018:

Climate change is rapidly warming the Earth and altering ecosystems on land and at sea that produce our food. In the oceans, most added heat from climate warming is still near the surface and will take centuries to work down into deeper waters. But as this happens, it will change ocean circulation patterns and make ocean food chains less productive.

In a recent study, I worked with colleagues from five universities and laboratories to examine how climate warming out to the year 2300 could affect marine ecosystems and global fisheries. We wanted to know how sustained warming would change the supply of key nutrients that support tiny plankton, which in turn are food for fish.

We found that warming on this scale would alter key factors that drive marine ecosystems, including winds, water temperatures, sea ice cover and ocean circulation. The resulting disruptions would transfer nutrients from surface waters down into the deep ocean, leaving less at the surface to support plankton growth.

As marine ecosystems become increasingly nutrient-starved over time, we estimate global fish catch could be reduced 20 percent by 2300, and by nearly 60 percent across the North Atlantic. This would be an enormous reduction in a key food source for millions of people.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Quote of the Week



“There are no saviours of democracy on the horizon. Rather, around the world we see a new authoritarianism that is always anti-democratic in practice, populist in appeal, nationalist in sentiment, fascist in sympathy, criminal in disposition, tending to spew a poisonous rhetoric aimed against refugees, Muslims, and increasingly Jews, and hostile to truth and those who speak it, most particularly journalists to the point, sometimes, of murder.” [Author Richard Flanagan writing in TheGuardian, 18 April 2018]