Showing posts with label Turnbull Government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Turnbull Government. Show all posts

Thursday, 10 August 2017

If you're not feeling well but think things can't get any worse - you forgot to factor in the Australian Minister for Health's cost cutting ways


The Age, 4 August 2017:

State and territory health ministers say hospital treatments and services will suffer under a Commonwealth proposal to withhold budgeted funds and reduce spending.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has drafted a directive to the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority to review its public hospital funding method.

It would result in retrospective funds not being paid and reduced services in future, Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick said in a joint statement issued after the COAG Health Council meeting in Brisbane on Friday.

Mr Hunt drew condemnation from Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT when he confirmed he would uphold the direction.

"States and Territories have already funded services and boosted frontline staffing taking into consideration Commonwealth funding," the statement said.


Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA), media release, 17 July 2017:
IHPA releases Consultation Paper on Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospital Services 2018-19
The Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA) today released its Consultation Paper on the Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospital Services 2018-19. The consultation is open to the public until Thursday 17 August 2017.
The Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospital Services 2018-19 outlines the major policy decisions which will underpin the National Efficient Price and National Efficient Cost Determinations for 2018-19.
This year IHPA will seek feedback regarding work that has been progressed on pricing and funding for safety and quality as well as canvassing options to enable new and innovative approaches to value based or preventative health care models.
The Chair of the Pricing Authority, Shane Solomon said, “IHPA has continued to work closely with the jurisdictions, clinicians and other stakeholders to make significant progress on the implementation of national reforms to incorporate safety and quality into the pricing and funding of public hospitals in Australia.
“A range of factors must now be considered including risk adjustment and how the approach can be embedded as part of broader system change.
“The success of a safety and quality pricing and funding mechanism is dependent on national, state, and local health systems working together to support the implementation of a model and ensure that it is working to improve safety and quality across all services,” he said.
“The Consultation Paper is an important opportunity for stakeholders to engage with IHPA on the approach to pricing and funding for safety and quality as well as the emergence of new innovative pricing models to help improve public hospital services across Australia. We strongly encourage all interested parties to provide feedback as part of this process,” concluded Mr Solomon.
The Consultation Paper on the Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospital Services 2018-19 is available on the IHPA website.
Submissions should be emailed as an accessible Word document to submissions.ihpa@ihpa.gov.au or mailed to PO Box 483, Darlinghurst NSW 1300 by 5pm on Thursday 17 August 2017.
– ENDS –

Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA), Ministerial Direction, 16 February 2017:
Ministerial Direction
On 16 February 2017 IHPA received a Ministerial Direction from the Hon. Greg Hunt under section 226(1) of the National Health Reform Act 2011.
The Direction requires that IHPA undertake implementation of agreed recommendations of the COAG Health Council on pricing for safety and quality to give effect to:
  1. nil funding for a public hospital episode including a sentinel event which occurs on or after 1 July 2017, applying to all relevant episodes of care (being admitted and other episodes) in hospitals where the services are funded on an activity basis and hospitals where services are block funded; and
  2. an appropriate reduced funding level for all hospital acquired complications, in accordance with Option 3 of the draft Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospital Services 2017-18, as existing on 30 November 2016, to reflect the additional cost of a hospital admission with a hospital acquired complication, to be applied across all public hospitals; and
  3. undertake further public consultation to inform a future pricing and funding approach in relation to avoidable hospital readmissions, based on a set of definitions to be developed by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.
IHPA will incorporate the requirements under this Direction into the final Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospitals 2017-18 due to be published on the IHPA website in early March 2017.
IHPA will undertake further consultation as part of its annual consultation process on the draft Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospitals 2018-19 due for publication in June 2017 and provide a report back to the COAG Health Council by 30 November 2017.
Note: This follows on from a Direction received on 29 August 2016 which required IHPA to provide advice to the COAG Health Council on options for pricing for safety and quality.
More information
For any questions, please contact enquiries.ihpa@ihpa.gov.au
Links

Monday, 7 August 2017

Politicians and Water: The Murray Darling Basin Scandal Fallout


The ABC Four Corners program “Pumped” which was screened on 24th July has illustrated how important scrutiny of the establishment is to the rule of law in our democracy. It also illustrates why the ABC is under threat from many politicians and other powerful players who see any effective scrutiny of their operations as an intolerable threat to their way of doing business, a way that is against both the general community interest as well as the national interest.
The outrage from the revelations of water theft and other illegality by big irrigators in the northern NSW area of the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) has increased over the days since the program was screened.  Politicians have been left scrambling and forced to change tack following the strength of the reaction and the condemnation of the inadequacy of their initial responses.
In NSW the Nationals Minister for Primary Industry, Niall Blair, was forced to change from an internal inquiry conducted by his department to an independent inquiry.  Blair was excessively optimistic in thinking that such an internal inquiry would be acceptable given that Four Corners had revealed a questionable relationship between Gavin Hanlon[1], his department’s Deputy Director General (Water), and big irrigators in the upper MDB.  In addition there was the important question of why the department had failed to act on departmental compliance officers’ reports of licence breaches and meter tampering. And there were questions about the role of the former water minister Kevin Humphries in dealing with the large irrigators.
The NSW Opposition has also taken action referring both the former Nationals water minister Kevin Humphries (Member for Barwon) and a senior bureaucrat (presumably Gavin Hanlon) to ICAC.
The Federal Government reaction was initially almost dismissive.  The Minister for Water Resources, Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce[2], as well as attempting to downplay the water theft by comparing it to cattle rustling, claimed that it was a matter for NSW and that there was no need for Federal Government involvement. Billions of dollars of taxpayer funds have been used to buy back water for environmental flows and instead of being used for this purpose this water has gone to the big irrigators in the upper Barwon-Darling.  Presumably the taxpayer funds had come from the Federal Government. This would surely make it a matter of very great interest to this government which, seeing it is so concerned about budget repair, would surely be appalled at the waste of billions of taxpayer dollars.
Joyce’s totally inadequate initial response was compounded shortly afterwards with what he said in a speech to irrigators in a hotel at Shepparton, a speech which was recorded by one of those attending.
Joyce said, "We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don't have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask.”
"A couple of nights ago on Four Corners, you know what that's all about? It's about them trying to take more water off you, trying to create a calamity. A calamity for which the solution is to take more water off you, shut more of your towns down."
Even a dinosaur like Barnaby Joyce should have been aware that anyone carrying a smartphone has the capacity to secretly record what others are saying.  In the political sphere we have seen how damaging this can be in the cases of Christopher Pyne and One Nation’s James Ashby. The Shepparton recording has certainly damaged Joyce and has added volume to the calls for him to be sacked from the Water portfolio.  Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen as the Prime Minister has enough problems in his own party without alienating Joyce and the Nationals.
By Sunday 30th the scandal became a matter that the Federal Government had to act upon despite Joyce’s earlier labelling it a state matter. The Federal solution was for the Murray Darling Basin Authority to carry out an independent basin-wide review into compliance with state-based regulations governing water use. The Authority is to report by 15th December 2017.  The Government saw this review as complementing the other investigations of the Four Corners allegations.
However, this is a case of far too little too late.  The MDB Authority is scarcely a body able to conduct an independent review of what has obviously been happening under its watch.  Furthermore a cynic would see the reporting date of 15th December, just before the Christmas holiday season, as a typical government move to ensure that the review report would receive minimal attention and be forgotten about over the holiday break.
The Federal Opposition, like its NSW state counterpart, has also taken action on the scandal.  It requested that the Auditor-General expand his current audit of the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.  The Auditor-General will now include how the federal department is monitoring the performance of NSW under the National Partnership Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the MDB relevant to the protection and use of environmental water.
Unsurprisingly, the South Australian Government, which has long been concerned about the lack of water reaching the end of the Murray-Darling system, was outraged by the allegations.  It is calling for a judicial inquiry, a much stronger investigation than those arranged by NSW and the Federal Government.  SA senators from Labor, the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Party and the Conservatives have joined their state government in calling for a judicial inquiry.
This scandal has a long way to run yet.  There are major questions to be answered about the National Party – both state and federally - and its relationship with the big irrigators and its apparent indifference to the needs of other irrigators further down the system.  There is also the question of its influence on the workings of the NSW Department of Agriculture.   And just what role has it had in limiting the effectiveness of – perhaps even of sabotaging - the Murray Darling Basin Plan?
For both Federal and NSW state Liberal leaders there is the question about the advisability of having resource management portfolios in the hands of Nationals and of putting both Agriculture and Water in the same portfolio.  Each of these governments has a very poor environmental record.  What has been happening on the Barwon-Darling reinforces the view that keeping “in good” with the Nationals is far more important for the  Liberals than ensuring that environmental policies are in the best long-term interests of the state and nation.
[1] Gavin Hanlon joined the NSW Department of Primary Industries in December 2014.  Prior to this he had been Managing Director of Goulburn Murray Water since 2011.
[2] The water portfolio was removed from the Environment Department and allocated to Joyce as a result of the agreement with the Liberals in 2015  following  Malcolm Turnbull becoming Prime Minister.

Hildegard
Northern Rivers
2nd August 2017

Guest Speak is a North Coast Voices segment allowing serious or satirical comment from NSW Northern Rivers residents. Email northcoastvoices at gmail dot com dot au to submit comment for consideration.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Tweet of the Week



Tuesday, 1 August 2017

And so the spotlight hovers over Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and NSW Regional Water Minister Niall Blair......


When both the NSW Coalition Government (2 April 2015) and Federal Coalition Government (21 September 2015) gave a minister dual responsibility for agriculture and water one could almost hear the political train careening wildly in the distance.

Unfortunately two years later the people of Australia woke to discover that handing over responsibility for water in a complex major river system to two National Party MPs meant it was also a social, economic and environmental train wreck as well.

All the audits and investigations in the world will not unmake the disaster that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has become under Barnaby Joyce and Niall Blair unless the political will is there, however this is a good start.

"The Auditor-General will investigate how Barnaby Joyce's Dept is monitoring use of environmental water by NSW." [@Tony_Burke]

In an effort to wrest back control of the situation Prime Minister Turnbull has reportedly 
ordered the Murray Darling Basin Authority to conduct an allegedly ndependent basin-wide review into compliance with state-based regulations governing water use. The review report will be presented to the December 2017 Council of Australian Government (COAG) meeting.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Australian Government guide to when it is extinguishing our traditional freedoms, rights and privileges


In 2015 Australian Attorney-General and Liberal Senator for Queensland George Brandis thoughtfully provided voters with a guide to assist them with analysing whether federal legislation rides roughshod over traditional rights, freedoms and privileges.

This guide can be found in the Australian Law Reform Commission Report 129, Traditional Rights and Freedoms— Encroachments by Commonwealth Laws:

The Terms of Reference, provided by the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, state that laws that encroach on traditional rights, freedoms and privileges should be understood to refer to laws that:

interfere with freedom of speech;
interfere with freedom of religion;
interfere with freedom of association;
interfere with freedom of movement;
interfere with vested property rights;
retrospectively change legal rights and obligations;
create offences with retrospective application;
alter criminal law practices based on the  principle of a fair trial;
reverse or shift the burden of proof;
exclude the right to claim the privilege against self-incrimination;
abrogate client legal privilege;
apply strict or absolute liability to all physical elements of a criminal offence;
permit an appeal from an acquittal;
deny procedural fairness to persons affected by the exercise of public power;
inappropriately delegate legislative power to the executive;
authorise the commission of a tort;
disregard common law protection of personal reputation;
give executive immunities a wide application;
restrict access to the courts; and
interfere with any other similar legal right, freedom or privilege

WARNING: Don’t attempt a drinking game with this list as you may succumb to acute alcohol poisoning before reaching the end.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Shorter UN Position: Australia's policy of offshore processing has caused extensive, avoidable suffering for far too long


To add insult to injury our very own J. Edgar Tuber, Peter Craig Dutton, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection & just about everything that isn't nailed down, has apparently been lying to the United Nations.


Australia’s policy of offshore processing in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, which denies access to asylum in Australia for refugees arriving by sea without a valid visa, has caused extensive, avoidable suffering for far too long.
Four years on, more than 2,000 people are still languishing in unacceptable circumstances. Families have been separated and many have suffered physical and psychological harm.
In light of this dire humanitarian situation, last November UNHCR exceptionally agreed to help with the relocation of refugees to the United States following a bilateral agreement between Australia and the US. We agreed to do so on the clear understanding that vulnerable refugees with close family ties in Australia would ultimately be allowed to settle there. 
UNHCR has recently been informed by Australia that it refuses to accept even these refugees, and that they, along with the others on Nauru and Papua New Guinea, have been informed that their only option is to remain where they are or to be transferred to Cambodia or to the United States.
This means, for example, that some with serious medical conditions, or who have undergone traumatic experiences, including sexual violence, cannot receive the support of their close family members residing in Australia.
To avoid prolonging their ordeal, UNHCR has no other choice but to endorse the relocation of all refugees on Papua New Guinea and Nauru to the United States, even those with close family members in Australia.  
There is no doubt these vulnerable people, already subject to four years of punishing conditions, should be reunited with their families in Australia. This is the humane and reasonable thing to do. 
The Australian government’s decision to deny them this possibility is contrary to the fundamental principles of family unity and refugee protection, and to common decency. 
UNHCR fully endorses the need to save lives at sea and to provide alternatives to dangerous journeys and exploitation by smugglers. But the practice of offshore processing has had a hugely detrimental impact. There is a fundamental contradiction in saving people at sea, only to mistreat and neglect them on land.  
Australia has a proud humanitarian tradition, manifested in its support for overseas aid and its longstanding refugee resettlement programme. I urge Australia to bring an immediate end to the harmful practice of offshore processing, offer solutions to its victims, for whom it retains full responsibility, and work with us on future alternatives that save lives at sea and provide protection to people in need.
At a time of record levels of displacement globally, it is crucial that all States offer protection to survivors of war and persecution, and not outsource their responsibilities to others. Refugees, our fellow human beings, deserve as much.
 Background
Approximately 2,500 refugees and asylum-seekers have been forcibly transferred by Australia to ‘offshore processing’ facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru since the introduction of the current policy in 2013. Of these, some 1,100 remain in Nauru and 900 in Papua New Guinea.
Following the Australia-US bilateral agreement on relocation, UNHCR has referred more than 1,100 refugees to the US over the past eight months. Another 500 people are still waiting for the outcome of the refugee status determination processing being carried out by authorities in PNG and Nauru, under the Australian arrangement.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Mr. Turnbull, about those millions.....


Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield and Minister for Sport Greg Hunt owe an explanation to every Australian who has taken an income support cut or an earned income cut during the last three years because of Coalition Government policies and decisions.

Show us the contract signed by Foxtel Sports Australia or News Corp!

ABC Radio Melbourne, “Mornings” program, 17 July 2017:

The federal communications department has refused to release details about $30 million in sports broadcasting funding given to Foxtel, because it says documents about the deal "do not exist".

Senior Producer for ABC Radio Melbourne Mornings, Dan Ziffer spoke to Jon Faine about the money, which was allocated to Foxtel in the 2016 federal budget to support "underrepresented sports."

"There appears to be no paper trail for the $30 million contract," Mr Ziffer said.

"Whatever was done about this deal, it certainly wasn't written down."

Director of the Australian Shareholders Association Stephen Mayne said he believed the government gave Foxtel the money to avoid making an enemy with the Murdoch media.

"Because the free to air networks were all getting a licence fee cut in the budget and the government wants to keep sweet with all of the media," he said.

"They didn't want to have an enemy in the Murdoch's so they just gave them $30 million and then had to come up with a reason."



Communications minister Mitch Fifield has come under renewed pressure to explain why Foxtel – and not a free-to-air network or public broadcaster – was given millions of dollars to boost coverage of women's and niche sports. 

The broadcaster was assigned $30 million in taxpayer's money over four years in the 2017 federal budget in order to boost "under represented sports" on subscription television….

Labor is opposed to the Turnbull government's media reforms and the package has yet to pass the Senate. Foxtel's funding was able to sail through the upper house because it was bundled into the government's appropriation bills. 

BACKGROUND

Financial Review, 4 June 2017:
A spate of recent deals show the influence broadcaster Fox Sports has on the Australian sporting scene and how it may wield that power in the future….
Government subsidies to Fox increase
Fox will also play a part in any FFA expansion plans for the A-League, with a small kicker in the rights contract for additional matches as a result of more teams at any stage of the six-year contract. It will have a say in where the new teams come from.
Then there is the budget 2017 deal with the federal government. The government will provide subscription television worth $30 million over four years to "maintain and increase coverage of women's sports, niche sports and high-participation sports which have struggled to get air-time".
Yes, that means Fox Sports – which already has an iron grip on sport with rights to all NRL, AFL, Super Rugby and A-League matches and Supercars races – will receive government funding to show even more sport.
While the notion of giving money to ensure exposure for so-called lesser sports is a positive one, it is going to a commercial organisation rather than a government funded entity such as the ABC or SBS.
ABC News, 28 December 2016:
Following a day when there was more coverage of a stomach ache suffered by one male commentator of one male sport than there was for the entire gamut of women's sports being played at the moment, a very serious question remains unanswered.
Why, on the eve of 2017, is the media still failing to report women's sport adequately while Mark Nicholas' abdominal distress is national news?
Having covered sport for more than 20 years with NewsCorp Julie Tullberg now teaches digital journalism at Monash University.
"Yeah it's pretty funny, I covered AFL many years ago for the Australian and I've been unwell but when I left the coverage no-one could be bothered writing about what I went through — if I was pregnant, or whatever — but with men, for someone live on air for a big event like a Test match, that's newsworthy because they have such a large audience," Tullberg told ABC NewsRadio.
Turn on the radio, television, or go online during the 'summer of sport' and there are updates galore on cricket, basketball and football (the round-ball variety).
But you would be excused for thinking only men play these games despite the fact there are concurrent women's domestic competitions being played at the moment.
In a country where there are four times as many journalists accredited to cover the AFL than federal politics you would be right to suggest sport is a key component of the national culture.
The past 18 months or so in Australia have been record breaking for women's sport ... new competitions, new pay deals and a new level of respect from sports bodies themselves.
Unfortunately, though, that doesn't seem to extend to day-to-day mainstream media coverage.
The Australian, 19 February 2016:
Subscription television group ­Foxtel has reported a 5.5 per cent jump in first-half revenue to $1.66 billion, driven by strong subscriber growth.
However, higher programming costs saw earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation slip by 7.7 per cent to $434 million.
Foxtel, which is owned by Telstra and News Corp, the publisher of The Australian, saw total subscriber growth of 8.1 per cent for the six months ended December 31 and broadcast subscriber growth of 7.4 per cent….
Fox Sports Australia, which is carried by Foxtel and owned by News Corp,....

Thursday, 20 July 2017

A new Australian Federal Government super ministry capable of deploying armed soldiers on our streets


“The first question to ask yourself is this: does handing Dutton that power sound like a good idea?” [journalist Katherine Murphy, The Guardian, 18 July 2017]

A new Australian Federal Government super agency capable of deploying armed soldiers on our streets? With a former Queensland police officer of no particular merit as its head?

What could possibly go wrong with a rigid, far-right, professed ‘Christian’ property millionaire having oversight of a super portfolio which would reportedly bring together the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Australian Border ForceAustralian Criminal Intelligence Commission and AUSTRAC along with a database on ordinary citizens, ‘intellectuals’ and perfectly legal organisations, going back literally generations?

How long will it take before any industrial action or protest event would be quickly labelled as terrafret and armed soldiers sent to disperse people exercising their democratic right?

Australia’s been down that painful path before during the last 229 years and been the worse for it.

Turnbull at Holsworthy Barracks, Forbes Advocate,17 July 2017

“The measures I am announcing today will ensure that the ADF is more readily available to respond to terrorism incidents, providing state and territory police with the extra support to call on when they need it.”  
[Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull, media release, Holsworthy NSW,17 July 2017]


Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed a dramatic shake-up of Australia's security, police and intelligence agencies that will put Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, in charge of a sprawling new Home Affairs security portfolio.

The department of Home Affairs will bring together domestic spy agency ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AUSTRAC and the office of transport security and will be put together over the next year.

And Mr Turnbull has also announced the government would, in response to the 
L'Estrange review of Australia's intelligence agencies, establish an Office of National Intelligence and that the Australian Signals Directorate will also be established as an independent statutory authority. 

The new Office of National Intelligence will co-ordinate intelligence policy and is in line with agencies in Australia's "Five Eyes" intelligence partners in the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand…..

The changes are to be finalised by June 30, 2018 - subject to approval of the National Security Committee of Cabinet -  with Mr Dutton to work with Senator Brandis in bedding down the changes.

Senator Brandis will lose responsibility for ASIO under the changes but, crucially, retain sign-off power on warrants for intelligence agency. 

Mr Turnbull said the Attorney-General's oversight of Australia's domestic security and law enforcement agencies would be strengthened, with the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the independent national security legislation monitor moving into his portfolio. 

The Prime Minister said Australia needed these reforms "not because the system is broken, but because our security environment is evolving quickly…..


However that L'Estrange review – part of a routine reassessment of national security arrangements – is understood not to specifically recommend such a super-portfolio.

Mr Turnbull has been dropping strong hints lately that he is inclined to make a significant change, rejecting what he's branded a "set and forget" policy on national security and warning that Australia must keep up with an evolving set of threats from terrorism to foreign political influence.

Security and intelligence agencies themselves are also believed to have concerns about such a change, while some former intelligence heads have publicly said they do not see any need for change.

However, a well-placed source in the intelligence community said a Home Affairs office - as opposed to a US-style Department of Homeland Security - was the preferred options for police and intelligence agencies.

That was because a Home Affairs department would potentially be broader, including agencies such as the Computer Emergency Response Team, the Australian Cyber Security Centre, Crimtrac, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the new Critical Infrastructure Centre, rather than just police and intelligence agencies.

The Guardian, 18 July 2017:

Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, put it well on Tuesday when he said any “grit” in the Dutton/Brandis relationship could be problematic for intelligence operations, which is obviously problematic for all of us, given we rely on the efficiency of the counter-terrorism framework to keep us safe.

So we’d better hope for the best, to put it mildly.

We’d also better hope it’s a good use of the time of our intelligence services and public servants to nut out how the Big Idea is going to work in practice, which will be a reasonably complex task, at a time when these folks already have a serious day job.

Recapping that specific day job again: trying to disrupt national security threats, in a complex environment. Pretty busy and important day job, that one.

It’s cartoonish to say this is all about the prime minister rewarding old mate Dutton, on the basis you keep your friends close, and your (potential) enemies closer.

Nothing is ever that simple outside a House of Cards storyboard– although it remains an irrefutable fact that Dutton wanted this to happen, and if Dutton really wanted it to happen, it would have been difficult for Turnbull, in his current position, to say no.
The Australian, 19 July 2017:         
The pressure points lie in the risk calculations that link intelligence to response. In a liberal democracy, we rightly demand high certainty of the intention to carry out an act of violence before we are comfortable with our security services pre-emptively taking someone off the streets. Usually when an attack happens, here or in the US or Europe, it’s because the calibration of risk hasn’t worked. It’s not because security services weren’t concerned about an individual’s beliefs and actions or couldn’t find him.
For those of us without access to national security data, the evidence suggests that Australia does these important risk calculations relatively well. Our list of foiled terrorist attacks is quite a bit longer than the list of attacks. The reason for this is the national security structures we have evolved: the combination of separate national security agencies, each with highly developed specialist capabilities and slightly different cultures and perspectives, working in close, 24/7 collaboration.
When calculating risk, separation and diversity are a strength because they build contestation, careful deliberation and stress testing into the system. Britain, the US, France and Belgium have chosen more centralised structures, and the evidence is that their systems do not work as well as ours. Bringing our highly effective agencies into a super-department cannot help but disrupt their inner structures and cultures. Such enterprises inevitably lose sight of the goal — keeping Australians safe — as they become driven by the desire for efficiencies and cultural homogenisation, and the urge for bureaucratic tidiness. Look no further than the creation of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, a process that has consumed enormous amounts of resources in reconciling two incompatible cultures, with no apparent benefits and a list of embarrassing blunders.
Creating one security super-department places a major imperative on the government to get everything right, first time. Separate but closely collaborating security agencies create a powerful check against underperformance: a struggling agency or a leader who’s not up to it are spotted and called out quickly. But underperformance in a federation-style conglomerate is not so easy to see and to call out. And in the meantime, it’s the safety of Australians that will be the price for underperformance.
If the Turnbull government were serious about national security, it would not engage in evidence-free experimentation with our national security. It should instead be building on what’s working well and making it even stronger. We need better co-ordination and cross agency connectivity, not big-bang organisational redesign.
We should be getting these sorts of issues right in a system that is working, rather than indulging in the risk-riddled gesture politics of a grand restructure.
Michael Wesley is professor of international affairs and dean of the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Can the CSIRO sink any lower?


“Collaborating with government. As a trusted adviser to government, our collaboration within the sector supports it to solve challenges, find efficiencies and innovate.” [CSIRO, Data61]

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is a federal government corporate entity ultimately responsible to the Australian Parliament.

It started life in the midst of global conflagration in 1916 and for most of its existence it was widely respected both in its country of origin and around the world.

Sadly that level of respect has been diminished in recent years as commercial imperatives saw it move away from its once proud boast that:


However, it had not yet become a low creature of right-wing political ideology.

Until now – when it appears willing to participate in enforcing punitive social policies, cynically presented in the guise of Budget measures by the Turnbull Coalition Government.

In particular, enabling the trial drug testing of income support applicants “based on a data-driven profiling tool developed for the trial to identify relevant characteristics that indicate a higher risk of substance abuse issues” which almost inevitably will target the poor and vulnerable.

Apparently the only matter holding the CSIRO back from full commitment to the trial is the matter of contract negotiations with the Dept. Of Social Security and/or Dept. of Human Services1.

The cost of this measure has reportedly been deemed by government to be “commercial-in-confidence”.

InnovationAus, 2 June 2017:

CSIRO has still not officially agreed to allow its Data61 analytics unit to become involved in the government’s highly contentious welfare drug testing program, a Senate estimates hearing has been told.

But the delay appears to be related to difficult contract negotiations – for which the research agency is well known – rather than the objections of staff or management to becoming involved in such a politically-driven program.

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and CSIRO appeared at the Senate estimates on Thursday morning.

The shocking concession that CSIRO has been in discussion to work on the drug-test project since April comes despite the organisation having specifically declined to confirm any knowledge of the project for weeks – let alone that it was actively negotiating a contract.

This is despite direct questions being put to CSIRO on multiple occasions for weeks.

The estimates hearing also revealed that Data61 has been called into the controversy plagued Social Services robo-debt project that has mistakenly matched debt to welfare recipients.

CSIRO digital executive director David Williams told shadow industry minister Kim Carr that while CSIRO was approached by the Social Services department about the welfare drug testing scheme in late April – less than a month before its involvement was prematurely announced by Cabinet Minister Christian Porter – it is still yet to officially sign on to the project.

“The Department of Social Services approached CSIRO in early April, wanting to implement a trial involving activity tested income support recipients across a small number of geographical areas,” Mr Williams told senate estimates.

“They asked for Data61’s support in doing the analysis to see whether predictive analytics could help them in that task.”

“Since that time we’ve been talking with the department, and scoped out a statement of work and we’ve looked at how we can implement that work should we sign a contract and proceed. At this moment we’re working through the procedures inside CSIRO.”

FOOTNOTE

1. The CSIRO already has a business relationship with the Australian Department of Human Services (DHS). Commencing in February 2017 the CSIRO and/or CSIRO Data61 conducted a Review of Online Compliance Systems, as well as supplying Specialist Data Science Services and Selection Methodologies Advice to the department. See; https://www.tenders.gov.au.

Friday, 23 June 2017

About those rules for joining the Liberal-Nationals' cosy little citizenship club.......



This bill raises the bar on applications for citizenship and increases the power of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, over the citizenship process - including granting him the power to override Administrative Appeals Tribunal decisions on citizenship applications.

One of the components of this bill is the introduction of an English language test, which means that with few exceptions applicants between 16 and 60 years of age will need to demonstrate competent English language listening, speaking, reading and writing skills before being able to sit the citizenship test.

Applicants will be required to undertake a separate upfront English language test with an accredited provider and achieve a minimum level of ‘competent’.

According to the Immigration Minister the minimum level of competency is the IELTS General Training language test at  “Level 6 of the General stream focuses on "basic survival skills in broad social and workplace contexts".

This particular test has three components – listening, reading and writing - and takes the better part of three hours to complete.

An example of the type of questions contained in the General Training reading test can be found here.

There is a strong likelihood that between est. 7-16 million Australians (including those born in Australia of Australian parents) would fail this test if they were required to take it today.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recorded the results of direct measurement of three critical information-processing skills: literacy; numeracy; and problem solving in technology-rich environments and the 16.3 million people whose skills were measured included those not in the workforce, those in employment and those without a job.

In 2016 ABS recorded:


By 2011-12 ABS was stating:


In the 2011-12 round of testing 43% of participants born in Australia and 51% of participants born outside of Australia had English literacy levels below Level 3.

The chances of the majority of these people, regardless of whether they are citizens or residents with visas, being able to pass Peter Dutton’s new English language test is slim to say the least.

According to Catherine Elder, a world-leading expert at Melbourne University and president of the International Language Testing Association; "A level six on both tests requires you to be highly literate and to be able to do things like write an essay. It would take a great deal of time and be beyond the reach of many people who come to Australia."

The fact of the matter is that in 2011-12 it was people who had attained a higher education qualification (Bachelor degree and above) who were more likely than others to have achieved a score at Level 3 or above in literacy and numeracy, and Level 2 or above in problem solving in technology-rich environments.

So according to the new citizenship rules being supported by millionaire parliamentarians Malcolm Bligh Turnbull and Peter Craig Dutton, it would appear that only those that managed to acquire a decent education need apply to join the Liberal-Nationals’ cosy little citizenship club.1
  
Footnote:

1. In 1788 when the forbears of many individuals and families - which are both grand and humble members of  Australian society of today - first stumbled off those early British convict ships onto shore the vast majority of them would have been illiterate. On the basis of poor literacy levels and criminal records Malcolm Bligh Turnbull's many convict forbears wouldn't be allowed to become permanent residents much less citizens today under the new rules.