Monday, 24 November 2014

Some things you may not have known about 'electronic' voting options in NSW state elections

According to the NSW Electoral Commission iVote is technology assisted voting and has been used in a New South Wales general election and five by-elections since 2011 for certain classes of electors - those with impaired vision or a physical disability requiring assistance, the profoundly illiterate, persons living more than 20 kms from the nearest polling station and those out of the state on polling day.

Voting is done on the Internet using a standard web browser or by call centre operators taking phone votes. Originally the second voting method was by phone using a standard handset and DTMF tones, but this was changed after the 2011 general election.

The largest group of iVote users were electors voting outside NSW on election day (over 43,000).

Of those electors who registered to iVote, 4,239 or 8.30% did not eventually use this system to cast their vote and 1,438 or 2.90% did not vote at all.

Over one thousand electors (1,335) registered to iVote during the 19 November 2011 by-election for the state seat of Clarence on the NSW North Coast and, most of these were first time uses of this voting system.

It has been proposed that the iVote system be used again for the March 2015 general election and during the September 2016 local government elections.

However, there are some issues with the iVote system that are not generally advertised by the NSW Government.

Below are excerpts from the Federal Government Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matter’s Second interim report on the inquiry into the conduct of the 2013 federal election: An assessment of electronic voting options, with my red bolding:

For example, the lost vote rate in the 2013 West Australian Senate race (1370 out of 1,348,797, slightly over 0.1%) was about the same as the demonstrated vote misrecording rate in Australia’s largest Internet voting trial, the NSW iVote project (43 misrecorded electronic votes out of 46,864, slightly under 0.1%) (PWC, 2011). The WA Senate incident received much more attention because it impacted an election outcome, not because the system was inherently much less reliable. Even more importantly, the paper-based Senate process retained paper evidence of the 99.9% of votes that weren’t lost; the iVote system produced no meaningful evidence of the correctness of any of the votes.

the ‘weak point’ in a paper-based voting system, resulting in a lost box of ballot papers, may lead to an unverifiable close result (such as in WA): but one ‘weak point’ in a wide-ranging electronic voting system has the potential to expose an entire election’s vote data to manipulation, corruption or attack, undermining the parliamentary system supported by the electoral process.

The NSW iVote system (outlined in Chapter 3) used in the 2011 state election had an average cost per vote cast of $74 compared to an average cost of all votes cast of $8.

While the iVote system is relatively secure, due to the fact that it utilises telephone systems for blind or low vision voting transactions and encrypted internet data architecture, the vote data on the voter’s computer or in the NSWEC’s servers is still open to potential manipulation.

In response to criticisms of the system’s security, the NSWEC has commissioned a third-party provider to strengthen the security of the system software prior to the 2015 state election, along with other hardware and data transmission improvements.

Vision Australia made a submission to the Joint Committee concerning telephone assisted voting during the 2013 federal election which included these observations:

It was anonymous, but not truly secret. People felt uncomfortable about verbalising their voting intentions to another person, and expressed the view that no-one else in the community would regard it as acceptable to be required to do this. Some clients in residential facilities and other places with limited privacy also expressed concern that their conversation with the call centre staff would be overheard and their voting intentions revealed…..
Clients who had voted using the iVote system in the NSW 2011 election were especially aware of the lack of independence involved in using the call centre option.
Some clients noted that they had no way of verifying that their voting intentions had been notated accurately and lodged correctly. While they did not necessarily mistrust the call centre operator, they were nevertheless aware that any human-mediated process introduces the possibility of errors, and such errors are more likely to occur when the process becomes complex, such as when a voter is voting “below the line”.

OVERCOMING INDIGENOUS DISADVANTAGE 2014 report released 19 November 2014

M e d i a R e l e a s e
Wednesday 19 November 2014

Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision


The 2014 Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage (OID) report released today shows some positive trends in the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, with improvements in health, education
and economic outcomes. However, results in areas such as justice and mental health continue to cause concern.

The report shows that, nationally, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians:

• economic outcomes have improved over the longer term, with higher incomes, lower reliance on income support, increased home ownership, and higher rates of full time and professional employment.
However, improvements have slowed in recent years
• several health outcomes have improved, including increased life expectancy and lower child mortality.
However, rates of disability and chronic disease remain high, mental health outcomes have not improved, and hospitalisation rates for self-harm have increased
• post-secondary education outcomes have improved, but there has been virtually no change in literacy and numeracy results at school, which are particularly poor in remote areas
• justice outcomes continue to decline, with adult imprisonment rates worsening and no change in high rates of juvenile detention and family and community violence.

“It has been almost three years since the last OID report. For this report we made a concerted effort to increase the involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Their input contributed to significant developments, including broadening the focus from overcoming disadvantage to improving wellbeing, and the inclusion of new indicators, such as Indigenous language revitalisation and maintenance, valuing Indigenous cultures (including experiences of racism and discrimination) and participation in decision making” said Peter Harris, chairman of the Productivity Commission and of the Steering Committee.

The OID report is the most comprehensive report on Indigenous wellbeing produced in Australia. It contains accessible data for an extensive range of wellbeing measures as well as case studies of programs that have led to improved outcomes. “This report should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians or working in service delivery or program design,” said Commissioner Patricia Scott, who convenes the expert working group that advises on the report.

The report is a product of the Review of Government Service Provision. It is overseen by a Steering Committee comprising senior officials from the Australian, State and Territory governments, and supported by a secretariat from the Productivity Commission. This report is the sixth in the series, which traces its origins to the final report of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation in 2000.

The full report can be found here.

On the same day the Productivity Commission report was released the Abbott Government walked away from another one of its 2013 election promises, according to The Australian, 20 November 2014:

THE national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services NATSILS is angry at the Abbott government for “back flipping” on a pledge to consider introducing justice targets as part of the Closing the Gap policy agenda, a move which NATSILS along with many other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and organisations have long called for.
It comes after this week’s Productivity Commission Overcoming indigenous Disadvantage report revealed a shocking increase of nearly 60 per cent in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration rates over the last decade.
NATSILS Chairperson, Shane Duffy, said that confirmation from the Minister for indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, during question time in the Senate on Wednesday that the government would not be progressing with introducing a justice target, despite publicly supporting such in the lead up to the 2013 election, was a troubling development…..
Mr Duffy said that the development of Closing the Gap justice targets was not just about throwing more money at the issue, as the Minister had described it, but was rather about getting the policy settings right to affect real change and to make sure resources in the justice space are used most effectively.
“The high cost of incarceration combined with the fact that prisons actually offer little in terms of effective rehabilitation, means that addressing incarceration rates should be an economic priority for the Government and its budget bottom line,” Mr Duffy said.
“It is costing Australian taxpayers more than $795 million per annum just to maintain the current level of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander over-imprisonment, so to reiterate the sentiments of the Minister in recent days, we shouldn’t just keep throwing money down the drain.”

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Brian Robins standing as an independant candidate for the Clarence electorate in March 2015 says he offers real choice

Photograph of Brian Robins from The Daily Examiner, 2 August 2014

Brian Robins media release, 18 November 2014:


Former Clarence NSW State Emergency Service Executive Officer, Bryan Robins will stand as an Independent candidate for the Clarence Electorate in the 2015 State Election.
He said it was his disillusionment with the policies practised by the major parties that persuaded him to make his stand. "I feel disillusioned with this Government for its failure to deliver benefits to the Clarence electorate" he said.
"I'm also disgusted with the behaviour of a disturbing number of elected Members from both the Labor Party and the Liberal-National Coalition". ICAC has revealed disgraceful behaviour and standards that indicate that both sides are as guilty as each other"
"People have had enough of poor party representation and their arrogance."

Mr. Robins said a strength of standing as an Independent was he could take his instructions straight from the people in this Electorate. " I don't have to ring head office in Sydney to be told how I'm supposed to feel about every issue. The locals will advise me and their views will be represented"
He said he had impeccible credentials as an Independent. "I've never been a member of a political party, I don't own any shares and Iv'e never been aligned to any faction or political interest group"

Mr' Robins moved to the Clarence Valley in 1982 to commence duties as the Executive Officer for what is now the Clarence-Nambucca Region of the SES, a position he served for over 20 years. Over those years I was privileged to develop close working relationships with communities across the Electorate.
"I had a senior Emergency Management role and I witnessed the electorate experience major floods, severe storms, bush fires and drought, man-made disasters....even a tornado in Tucabia"

Iv'e seen the area at it's best and also when under severe threat, and I have always admired the strength and resillience of the Community and its fierce determination to protect what we all recognise as one of the wonderful places to call home."

Mr. Robins has already announced his opposition to CSG mining in the Clarence Electorate. "Rightly so, the local communities simply don't want it"
He also encouraged the anti CSG Lobby to continue it's fight. I'm hopeful I can help them and join with them to continue to voice the message loud and clear" 
"It is already a huge issue"

"I look forward to meet with as many groups and individuals as possible in the coming months. I invite them to contact me"
For the time being, please phone 6642 8473 or email

Japan to continue its annual commercial whale hunt in the Southern Ocean

Once Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was safely out of Australia, after attending the November 2014 G20 summit, Japan announced it will continue its annual whale kill in the Southern Ocean.

Reuters 18 November 2014:

Japan on Tuesday unveiled plans to resume whale hunting in the Southern Ocean despite an international court ruling that previous hunts were illegal, but said it would slash the quota for the so-called scientific whaling program….
The new plan, which a Fisheries Agency official said was drawn up in line with suggestions contained in the court ruling, calls for hunting 333 minke whales, down from some 900 in Japan's previous whaling plans, in the 2015-2016 season.
The plan, which Japan has submitted to the International Whaling Commission, also limits the hunt to minkes. In past years, the hunts had included quotas for humpback and fin whales as well.
"We hope to earnestly explain this new plan in order to win understanding from other nations in the world," Koya Nishikawa, the fisheries minister, told reporters.

Japan canceled its Antarctic hunt this year in response to the ICJ ruling, and carried out a scaled-down version of its less known Northern Pacific hunt this summer.

The Sea Shepherd organisation has stated its intention to prevent the 2015-16 whale hunt by hindering the whaling fleet once it enters Antarctic waters.

Australian Government Dept. of the Environment, Australian Antarctic Division:

Minke whales are one of the smallest species of baleen whales and grow to nearly 9 metres long and about 10 tonnes in weight.
There are two 'forms' of minke whales, sub species or possibly even separate species. They are distinguished by size and colour pattern differences…
Minkes are the only baleen whale species which is still common in Antarctic waters and apparently the most ice adapted of the Antarctic baleen whales. They have been seen hundreds of kilometres into heavy pack ice in the middle of winter, and some of them obviously spend the winter there.
In summer, their favoured habitat seems to be open pack ice, that is, pack ice where there is quite a lot of open water among ice floes.
In very heavy ice, minkes breathe by sticking their pointed heads vertically out through narrow cracks in the ice. How they can find their way from one open crack to another before they run out of breath is a mystery.
Minkes are regarded as very inquisitive animals. They will often swim repeatedly around a small vessel, and go out of their way to approach a moving ship, before veering away at high speed….
They are now the target of the whaling industry, which in its present form, kills minkes for 'scientific research', but is attempting to recommence commercial whaling. The meat from this research is sold in commercial markets….
Like other baleen whales, many minke whales migrate to somewhere in tropical waters to breed in winter….
...they feed almost exclusively on Antarctic krill while in Antarctic waters.... usually feed in groups, but may form huge groups of many hundreds if there is enough food present.

Antarctic minke whales commence breeding at between 6-8 years of age, nurse their young for five months after a 10-11 month gestation and, have a normal life expectancy of over 20 years possibly up to around 50 years.

Minke whale and calf

Saturday, 22 November 2014

History is coming for us all

First Dog on the Moon cartoon via The Guardian 21 November 2014:

Click on image to enlarge

Best Tweet of the Week

Quote of the Week

These overall findings only tell part of the story, and the following pages present a brief snapshot of the results for the 60 nations covered on the GGEI as they play out on the four main dimensions: Leadership & Climate Change, Efficiency Sectors, Markets & Investment and Environment & Natural Capital….