Showing posts with label right wing politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label right wing politics. Show all posts

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

FAIR GO 101: It's Time To Change The Rules

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Was the Australian Minister for Screech bullied in Senate Estimates? You be the judge

This is a fairly typical mainstream media snap of Liberal Senator for Western Australia & Minister for Jobs and Innovation Michaelia Clare Cash.

On 1 March 2018 Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull rose to his feet in the House of Representatives to claim that Cash had been bullied during a Senate Estimates hearing on 28 February 2018.

"Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth—Prime Minister) (14:01): All of us should show respect to the staff in this building, and indeed we should show respect to each other—although, obviously, as we will see no doubt in the next 70 minutes, that principle can sometimes be challenged in practice. The honourable member refers to some remarks made by Senator Cash during a very heated exchange in Senate estimates, where she was being bullied and provoked by Senator Cameron......But Senator Cash was being bullied and provoked by Senator Cameron, who was making insinuations about staff." [Hansard, 1 March 2018]

This is the incident to which he is referring.
After the hearing suspension at 10:20am Minister Cash went on to repeat her threat to name individual parliamentary staff.

The full transcript of the Cash-Cameron exchange during the Senate Estimates Education and Employment Legislation Committee hearing on 28 February can be found here.

Readers may judge for themselves whether Minister Cash was bullied and insinuations made about her staff.

From where I am sitting it appears as though the only insinuations were made by the Minister herself as were the verbal threats.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

No need to worry about the possibility that a Liberal-Nationals Federal Government will impose censorship on the free press in Australia

The time to fret over the possibility of government censorship of the media is over because in February 2018 it ceased being a distant possibility and became fact.

This is what the Australian Press Council stated about the News Corp online article….

Australian Press Council (APC):   

The Press Council has considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by an article published in on 31 May 2017, headed “Islamic State [IS] terror guide encourages luring victims via Gumtree, eBay”.

The opening paragraph read: “ISLAMIC State has released a step-by-step guide on how to murder nonbelievers, which includes how to lure targets via fake ads on Gumtree and eBay”. The article proceeded to relay in detail how an article in “[t]he latest edition of the terror group’s English-language propaganda magazine … encourages would-be terrorists to advertise products on second-hand selling sites … to lure victims and assassinate them”. The article mostly comprised extracts from the source material describing the steps necessary to perform such acts.

The Council considered that the article did publish much of the source material from IS verbatim, with limited accompanying analysis or context, such as comments from experts and websites such as Gumtree. The Council accepted there was no intention to encourage or support terrorism, but considered that republishing content from terrorist entities in this manner can perpetuate the purpose of such propaganda and give publicity to its ideas and practices.

However, the Council accepted the public interest in alerting readers to potential risks to their safety. It considered that on balance, the public interest in alerting readers to the dangerous content of the terrorist propaganda and its instructional detail was greater than the risk to their safety posed by the effective republication of terrorist propaganda content. Given this, the Council concluded that the public interest justified publication of the article. Accordingly, the publication did not breach General Principle 6.

The Council noted that great care needs to be exercised by publications when reporting on terrorist propaganda to ensure that public safety is not compromised. In particular, effectively republishing source material comprising instructional detail in how to carry out particular terrorist acts could pose a risk to public safety, and reasonable steps should be taken to prevent such an outcome.

This is what the Turnbull Government did……., 28 February 2018:

…the article titled “Islamic State terror guide encourages luring victims via Gumtree, eBay” no longer exists.

A week after it was published on May 31, 2017, the Attorney-General’s office contacted to demand it be taken down, saying the Classification Board had ruled it should be refused classification as it “directly or indirectly” advocated terrorist acts.

It appears to be the first time section 9A of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 has been used to censor a news report, since it was first added in 2007.

The action has alarmed the publisher of as Australian media in general were not informed the Classification Board had the power to ban news stories or that the eSafety Commissioner had the power to instigate investigations into news articles.

“The first knew of this matter was when contacted by the Attorney-General’s Department and advised of the Classification Board decision,” argued as part of a separate Press Council investigation into the article.
“The department, board and the eSafety Commissioner did not contact beforehand to advise of the investigation. Consequently, was not given the right to make submissions or a defence in regard to the article.” removed the article as it was facing legal penalties from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) if it refused, including fines or even civil or criminal legal action.
In justifying its decision, the Classification Board noted the article contained “detailed references and lengthy quotations from Rumiyah (Islamic State’s propaganda magazine)” with limited author text to provide context. asked the board why there was no opportunity for news organisations to defend the article based on public interest grounds but a response provided by a spokesman for the eSafety Commissioner did not directly address this.

The spokesman said the board did consider whether the material could “reasonably be considered to be done merely as part of public discussion or debate, or as entertainment or satire” before making its decision.

He also acknowledged this may have been the first time a news article had been censored using this section.

However, as a government which to a man fails to grasp how the Internet works their well-laid plans seldom go off without a hitch and, the article that Turnbull & Co wish to erase from memory remains on national and international news sites as I write.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The face of betrayal

Nationals New England MP Barnaby Joyce has been returned to the backbench and the Turnbull Government coverup has begun at the expense of an accountable parliamentary democracy......

Hansard, 26 February 2018

Shorter Michael McCormack Nationals MP for Riverina: turns up for work, never rebels

So who is the 53 year-old Nationals MP for Riverina Michael Francis McCormack, the new Leader of the National Party in federal parliament and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia?

Like Barnaby Joyce before him he was raised Catholic in a country New South Wales town.

Also like Joyce his professional career before entering politics was not associated with the land or farming.

After leaving school McCormack became a journalist at The Daily Advertiser in Wagga Wagga, went on to become a run of th mill editor before starting a small publishing firm, MSS Media Pty Ltd which appears to have produced very forgetable books.

Like many federal politicians he's a homeowner with an investment property, a working wife and children who are now adults. 

Again, like many Liberal-Nationals politicians before him he failed to properly declare income derivied from this investment property - until it became certain that he would be putting his name forward for the deputy prime minister ballot.

Also like many other federal ministers he regularly attends major sporting events as the guest of big business.

According to They Vote For You McCormack, first as an ordinary backbencher and later as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, Assistant Minister for Defence, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, has never voted against the Coalition Government party line since he entered the House of Representatives in 2010.

He voted very strongly for:

In other words the new Deputy Prime Minister is a typical National Party member.

In favour of: selling off government assets, raising the cost of health care, lowering the take-home pay of ordinary workers, making the lives of welfare recipients miserable; breaking international law in relation to the treatment of asylum seekers; upending state CSG mining moratoriums and hounding the unions.

Friday, 23 February 2018

NATS Spill? Monday 26 February 2018

According to Junkee on 22 February 2018:

Nationals MP Andrew Broad has publicly called on Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to resign from the leadership of the National Party, firing the starting gun on a leadership challenge.

In an interview on ABC radio this afternoon Broad said his local Nationals branch had called on Joyce to resign and that he would represent that view to the Nationals party room meeting in Canberra next Monday. He called on Joyce to resign as party leader and go to the back bench.

Are we about to see......

Monday, 12 February 2018

AUSTRALIA CARD MARK II: no national digital ID number will mean no access to any Australian federal government services

“When signing up to the platform for the first time, users will be asked to provide their name, email address, and phone number, and verify their details via email or SMS. They will then be asked to provide information from three identity documents, which goes through the exchange to the identity provider for verification. The exchange receives encrypted details back which it passes on to the government service the user wants to reach, which then grants the user access.”  [IT News, 20 March 2015]

IT News, 8 February 2018:

The Department of Human Services looks set to become the federal government's exclusive manager of digital identities after being selected to build the identity provider solution that will be used for the Govpass platform.

The Govpass framework is a decentralised identity model that allows individuals to choose their identity provider - an organisation that issues identity documents, like Australia Post or the ATO - and access a range of public and private sector services through a single digital identity credential.

There is no limit on the number of identity providers outside of the Commonwealth that can be accredited for Govpass; Australia Post has already indicated it will seek to become the first non-government identity provider, using its Digital iD platform.
Several state and territory government agencies and private sector entities are also expected to become identity providers over time.

However, the federal government last year made the decision that only one identity provider would operate for the entire Commonwealth.

The Digital Transformation Agency revealed the decision following meetings with existing Commonwealth identity service providers, DHS and the ATO. Its rationale for the move was to focus security efforts in one place and avoid complex administrative structures.

iTnews revealed in October that the DTA was yet to make up its mind up on which of the two agencies would serve as the federal government’s sole identity provider for GovPass, even as testing of the new platform was taking place with the ATO’s new online tax file number application service.

Instead the DTA said it was working closely with the ATO and DHS on the “next steps” for the platform.

But in response to questions on notice from recent estimates hearings, DHS revealed it had been instructed to develop the federal government’s single identity provider platform, to be known as myGov IdP.

“The department was commissioned by the DTA to build the identity provider (IdP) for the whole-of-government,” it said.

“The myGov IdP will enable citizens to verify their identity online and use it to apply for government services.”

iTnews has made several attempts to clarify the statements with the DTA and DHS, but both refused to comment on the build and DHS’ apparent position as the single government identity provider.

The ATO similarly redirected questions about its involvement with Govpass, including whether it had also been asked by the DTA to build an identity provider solution, to the DTA.

Selecting DHS as the sole government identity provider would be an obvious choice for the DTA - the agency is the government’s current defacto whole-of-gov identity provider through the myGov digital services platform.

A private beta release of myGov IdP is currently planned for later this month.

Identity providers on Govpass will use the DTA-built identity exchange – and in turn the document verification service (DVS) and facial verification service (FVS) – to verify an individual’s credentials without revealing their identity to service providers.
[my yellow bolding]

NoteThe Face Identification Service (FIS) is a one-to-many, image-based identification service that can match a photo of an unknown person against multiple government records to help establish their identity. FIS is also available to police, security services, Dept. of Immigration and Dept. of Foreign Affairs. [Australian Attorney-General's Department, October 2017]

Thursday, 8 February 2018

The Liberal Party of Australia's inability to avoid adding more rigthwing hardliners to its ranks is disturbing

“Plus  ça  change, plus  c'est  la  même  chose”

John Howard's quasi military protégée during his prime ministershipformer "special envoy" for a later Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, 'speaker and entertainer' for hire, border control hardliner, retired major-general Andrew James "Jim" Molan formally took up a Senate seat on 5 February 2018 as Liberal Party Senator for New South Wales.
Having failed to be elected at the last federal election he came to the Senate after the High Court of Australia ruled Susan Nash was ineligible to continue sitting in the Senate due to holding dual citizenship.
The senator from Royalla near Queanbeyan NSW has created a new Facebook page now he has been sworn-in, however the original page still exists. As does his Twitter account where he has a tendency to retweet praise of himself.
A right-wing warrior with an imperfect understanding of human rights, a controversial war record and an apparent antipathy to est. 2.6 per cent of the Australian population is now a member of the Turnbull Coalition Government.

This is how the mainstream media saw him on the day........
ABC News, 5 February 2018:
Newly-elected Liberal senator and retired senior Army officer Jim Molan is defending his decision to share anti-Muslim videos posted by far-right UK group Britain First on Facebook.
In March last year Mr Molan, who was sworn in as a senator this morning, shared posts from the group on his personal, public Facebook page.
One of the Britain First videos purports to show Muslim men attacking a police car in France, while the other purports to show Muslim men harassing and assaulting young women in France and the Netherlands.
The second video has been discredited by online fact-checkers.
Today Senator Molan said he did not remember sharing the videos, but upon watching them again, was shocked by the violence within them.
He said the videos were not inflammatory, and not racist.
"I have no apologies, I have no regrets," he said.
Senator Molan said he rejected any suggestion he was racist……..

Britain First shot to global attention when US President Donald Trump shared anti-Muslim videos from the group in November last year.
It prompted outrage in Britain, and he was criticised by UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
Last week Mr Trump apologised for re-tweeting the posts, saying he knew nothing about the group.
Senator Molan has also shared posts made by far-right figure Milo Yiannopolous and controversial cartoonist Larry Pickering.
Those posts were not anti-Muslim in nature.
A spokesman for Senator Molan said the senator shared content online to provoke debate, and was not endorsing anything.
"The senator often posts material in order to generate debate," he said.
"The sharing of any post does not indicate endorsement."
Senator Molan has not posted commentary with the more controversial posts, and does not regularly respond to comments made on the posts.
But he did respond to a comment on one Britain First post, which read: "Charming. And we're meant to be tolerant, accepting and welcoming of this 'breed' in our country."
Senator Molan replied "Unbelievable".

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

CENTRELINK ROBO-DEBT: the nightmare continues

Given that the Turnbull Government continues to apply a faulty algorithm to Centrelink debt collection in 2018, private debt collectors remain financially incentivised to aggressively chase debts which may not actually exist, former welfare recipients may still receive debt recovery fee demands and government intends to expand collection to other groups/forms of declared income, while Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge is yet to fix the problems with ‘phone wait times, perhaps a reminder of what the title Online Compliance Intervention actually hides and what the alternative term robo-debt  describes……..

Cory Doctorow writing in Boing Boing, 1 February 2018:

In a textbook example of the use of big data to create a digital poorhouse, as described in Virginia Eubanks's excellent new book Automating Inequality, the Australian government created an algorithmic, semi-privatised system to mine the financial records of people receiving means-tested benefits and accuse them of fraud on the basis of its findings, bringing in private contractors to build and maintain the system and collect the penalties it ascribed, paying them a commission on the basis of how much money they extracted from poor Australians.

The result was a predictable kafkaesque nightmare in which an unaccountable black box accused poor people, students, pensioners, disabled people and others receiving benefits of owing huge sums, sending abusive, threatening debt collectors after them, and placing all information about the accusations of fraud at the other end of a bureaucratic nightmare system of overseas phone-bank operators with insane wait-times.

GillianTerzis writing in Logic, a magazine about technology, 2017:

Automation is dehumanizing in a literal sense: it removes human experience from the equation. In the case of the robo-debt scandal, automation also stripped humans of their narrative power. The algorithm that generated these debt notices presented welfare recipients with contrasting stories: the recipients claimed they’d followed the rules, but the computer said otherwise.

There were few official ways to explain one’s circumstances: twenty-nine million calls to Centrelink went unanswered in 2016, and Centrelink’s Twitter account seems explicitly designed to discourage conversational exchange. One source of narrative resistance is, a website run entirely by volunteers that gathers false debt stories from ordinary Australians so that the “scandal can't be plausibly minimised or denied.”

Over time it was revealed that many of these debts were miscalculated or, in some cases, non-existent. One man I’d read about was on a government pension and saddled with a $4,500 bill, which was revised down months later to $65. Another recipient, who was on disability as a result of mental illness, had a debt notice of $80,000 that was later recalled. A small proportion of recipients were exclusively in contact with private debt collectors and received no official notice from Centrelink at all.

Soon it emerged that social services were a lucrative avenue for corporate interests: this year’s Senate inquiry revealed that some private agencies tasked with recouping debts were working on a commission basis, pocketing a percentage of the debts they had recovered for the government regardless of their validity. (All debt notices issued by private agencies were eventually rescinded after government review in February 2017.)

The methodology of the algorithm itself was riddled with flaws. It calculates the average of an individual’s annual income reported to the Australian Tax Office …..and compares it with the fortnightly earnings reported to Centrelink by the welfare recipient. All welfare recipients are required to declare their gross earnings (income accrued before tax and other deductions) within this fourteen-day period. Any discrepancy between the two figures is interpreted by the algorithm as proof of undeclared or underreported income, from which a notice of debt is automatically generated.

Previously, these inconsistencies would be handled by Centrelink staff, who would call up your employer, confirm the amount you received in fortnightly payments, and cross-index that figure with the one calculated in the system. But the automation of the debt recovery process has outsourced authority from humans to the algorithm itself.

It’s certainly efficient: it takes the algorithm one week to generate 20,000 debt notices, a process that would take up to a year if done manually. But it’s not a reliable method of fraud detection. It’s blunt, unwieldy, and error-prone. It assumes that variations in the data sets are deliberate, and that recipients have received more than what they are entitled to. What’s more, the onus is on the welfare recipient to prove their income has been reported correctly and that the entitlements they have received are commensurate within twenty-one days.

Yet, as many critics have noted, this income-averaging method is porous. It fails to accurately account for the fluctuating fortunes of casual or contract workers, which often results in variations between the two figures. There’s also no way for the algorithm to correct for basic errors in the system’s database. It cannot yet discern whether an employer’s legal name has been used instead of its various business names—it treats them as separate entities, and therefore separate sources of income—or whether conflicting reports are caused by basic mistakes, such as spelling errors or typos. These seemingly small distinctions are ones that only a human could make. It’s no wonder, then, that conservative estimates of its error rate hover at 20 percent……

Yet the irony of stigmatizing welfare recipients is that better-off Australians are major beneficiaries of social spending. The Australian writer Tim Winton notes that the country’s middle class has “an increasing sense of entitlement to welfare,” which is “duly disbursed largely at the expense of the poor, the sick, and the unemployed.” These include tax concessions on contributions to “superannuation,” which are funds designed to help Australians save for their retirement. Such concessions are distortionary: they’re levied at a flat rate of 15 percent, rather than at a progressive rate according to one’s income, which means their benefits are reaped overwhelmingly by the rich.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics calculates that nearly one third of these concessions are claimed by the top 10 percent of income earners in Australia. Then there are policies like negative gearing, a tax concession that allows you to claim a deduction against your wage income for losses generated by any rental properties you own. (Australia and New Zealand are the only countries in the world to hold such a policy.) In addition, Australian homeowners are entitled to a capital gains tax discount of 50 percent once the property is sold.

Critics have argued that the combination of these two policies only serves to fuel investor speculation, entrench housing unaffordability, and lock first-time home buyers out of the market. But it’s easier to attack the poor than to tax the rich.


In July 2016 the Department of Human Services (DHS) - Centrelink launched a new online compliance intervention (OCI) system for raising and recovering debts. The OCI matches the earnings recorded on a customer’s Centrelink record with historical employer-reported income data from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Parts of the debt raising process previously done manually by compliance officers within DHS are now done using this automated process. Customers are asked to confirm or update their income using the online system. If the customer does not engage with DHS either online or in person, or if there are gaps in the information provided by the customer, the system will fill the gaps with a fortnightly income figure derived from the ATO income data for the relevant employment period (‘averaged’ data). 

Since the initial rollout of the OCI, the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office has received many complaints from people who have incurred debts under the OCI. This report examines our concerns with the implementation of the OCI, using complaints we investigated as case study examples. 

We acknowledge the changes DHS has made to the OCI since its initial rollout. The changes have been positive and have improved the usability and accessibility of the system. However, we consider there are several areas where further improvements could be made, particularly before use of the OCI is expanded. We have made several recommendations to address these areas......

Planning and risk management

In our view, many of the OCI’s implementation problems could have been mitigated through better project planning and risk management at the outset. This includes more rigorous user testing with customers and service delivery staff, a more incremental rollout, and better communication to staff and stakeholders. DHS’ project planning did not ensure all relevant external stakeholders were consulted during key planning stages and after the full rollout of the OCI. This is evidenced by the extent of confusion and inaccuracy in public statements made by key non-government stakeholders, journalists and individuals.

A key lesson for agencies and policy makers when proposing to rollout large scale measures which require people to engage in a new way with new digital channels, is for agencies to engage with stakeholders and provide resources for adequate manual support during transition periods. We have recommended DHS undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the OCI in its current form before it is implemented further and any future rollout should be done incrementally.

Centrelink website, 5 February 2018:

If you don’t pay your debt by the due date, we may ask the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to send us your tax refund. If we do we’ll send you a Recovery of your Centrelink debt letter.

If you aren’t repaying your debt over time or if we haven’t agreed to extend the payment time, we may also:

* add an interest charge to your debt

* refer your debt to an external collection agency

* reduce your income support payments to help pay the amount owing

* recover the amount from your wages, other income and assets, including money you may hold in a bank account

* refer your case to our solicitors for legal action

* issue a Departure Prohibition Order to stop you from travelling overseas....

The rate of interest we apply to your debt is consistent with the current rate applied by the ATO to tax debts. 

Thursday, 1 February 2018

A lesson in political repression courtesy of the Turnbull Government

On 7 December 2017 the Turnbull Coalition Government introduced a bill called the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017.

It is currently before the Senate and the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters which reports to Parliament on 2 March 2018.

This bill purports to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to: establish public registers for key non-party political actors; require non-financial particulars, such as senior staff and discretionary government benefits, to be reported; prohibit donations from foreign governments and state-owned enterprises being used to finance public debate; require wholly political actors to verify that donations over $250 come from an organisation incorporated in Australia, or with its head office or principal place of activity in Australia, or an Australian citizen or Commonwealth elector; prohibit other regulated political actors from using donations from foreign sources to fund reportable political expenditure; limit public election funding to demonstrated electoral spending; amend the enforcement and compliance regime for political finance regulation; and enable the Electoral Commissioner to prescribe certain matters by legislative instrument; and Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 to make consequential amendments.

The bill contains these clauses in relation to not only donations made to political parties but also to donations made to advocacy groups and charities which lobby government:

# 287AA Meaning of allowable donor

 (1) A person or entity is an allowable donor if:

(a) for an individual who makes a gift—the individual:
(i) is an elector; or
(ii) is an Australian citizen; or
(iii) is an Australian resident, unless a determination is in force under subsection

(2) determining that Australian residents are not allowable donors; or

(b) for an entity that makes a gift:
(i) the entity is incorporated in Australia; or
(ii) for an entity that is not incorporated—the entity’s head  office or principal place of activity is in Australia; or

(c) for a person or entity that is a trustee of an unincorporated trust fund or unincorporated foundation, out of which a gift is made—the person or entity is an allowable donor within the meaning of paragraph (a), (b) or (d); or

(d) the person or entity is in a class of persons or entities prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this paragraph. Australian residents 

(2) For the purposes of subparagraph (1)(a)(iii), the Minister may, by  legislative instrument, determine that Australian residents are not allowable donors.

# 302P Information relating to allowable donor status

(1) A person (the first person) obtains appropriate donor information from another person establishing that the other person is an allowable donor if:

(a) the first person obtains a statutory declaration from the other person declaring that the other person is an allowable donor (unless subsection (2) applies); or
(b) if the regulations determine information that the first person may seek from the other person in order to establish that the other person is an allowable donor—the first person obtains 11 that information from the other person.

(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(b), the regulations may (but are not required to) determine that a statutory declaration that a person is an allowable donor is not appropriate donor information.

Note: A person who obtains appropriate donor information may not commit an offence or contravene a civil penalty provision in this Division (see 17 subsection 287(9) and section 302M).

It should be noted that approved witnesses to a Commonwealth statutory declaration come from specific occupational pools and only justices of the peace are prohibited from charging a fee to act as a witness.

It should be further noted that these clauses are in addition to the bill's amending of the definition of an associated entity which GetUp! asserts threatens its independence.

GetUp! had this to say on the subject:

Our lawyers just uncovered a killer clause in the Turnbull Government's new anti-democratic legislation that would decimate GetUp's ability to fundraise.Can you dig deep to help establish a GetUp Survival War Chest -- while we still can?

If passed, this killer clause would force then anyone who contributes as little as $4.80 a week to the GetUp movement to provide a signed and witnessed statutory declaration.

The impossibility of collecting thousands upon thousands of these documents would spell the end of people-powered fundrasing as we know it.

Of course, we're going to fight tooth and nail to stop this legislation in its tracks. But to prepare for the worst, we're creating a GetUp Survival War Chest, to ensure we run can keep our campaigns thriving no matter what.

Can you dig deep now (while we still can) as an act of defiance against this effort to choke off our people powered impact?

Donations page here.