Showing posts with label federal government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label federal government. Show all posts

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Quotes of the Week



“in the Liberal Party, the problem is intellectual honesty, intellectual capacity, courage and integrity. Liberal Party politicians are not even game to attempt ideological coherence in their public pronouncements. They prefer simplistic slogans, message manipulation, outright lies, and varying levels of verbal bullying [Academic and blogger Ingrid Matthews writing in oecomuse, 27 November 2018]

“I note, and accept, advice that there is nothing in the bill that would abrogate parliamentary privilege. However, the main issue with covert access in relation to privilege … is that there would be no opportunity for a parliamentarian who considers that material is protected by privilege to raise such a claim.”  [ Speaker of the Australian Senate, Senator Scott Ryan, quoted in The Guardian, 29 November 2018]

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

More reasons why establishing a federal independent commission against corruption is a good idea


The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 November 2018:

Australia is becoming more corrupt because successive federal governments have failed to create an effective national anti-corruption body similar to the NSW Independent Commission against Corruption, a leading jurist has argued.

Writing in support of a national anti-corruption body, David Harper, a former Court of Appeals justice at the Supreme Court of Victoria, noted that in 2012 Australia ranked seventh in Transparency International’s global corruption index, but that today we were ranked 13th.

“The lack of a federal anti-corruption agency remains a reason why we have never come close to being corruption-free,” he has written in an opinion piece for the Herald.

Mr Harper writes that the lack of an effective federal anti-corruption watchdog had allowed corruption to flourish undetected and, in turn, allowed federal politicians to hide behind the myth that the federal sphere is free of corruption.....

One can see Mr. Harper's point. Allegations of federal corruption regularly surface and are never fully addressed.

Take the allegations that one Liberal MP when minister borrowed money to buy into a proposed coal seam gas field (a proposal he supported in the parliament) and another Liberal minister inappropriately handed federal funding to his mates.......

ABC News, 14 November 2018:

A Northern Territory consulting company that employs Country Liberal Party president Ron Kelly was awarded more than $1.4 million through federal grants intended to tackle Indigenous disadvantage.

North Australian Remote Management Consultants (NARMCO) was given the money by Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion over a three-year period through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and the Aboriginal Benefits Account.

The Indigenous Advancement Strategy is a $4.9 billion federal fund that was designed "to improve the way that the Government does business with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to ensure funding actually achieves outcomes".

NARMCO is not an Aboriginal-owned company, but has previously said it works with Indigenous companies.

It is unclear how the award of funds achieves the stated aims of the IAS fund.

Mr Scullion has recently faced criticism for his allocation of IAS funds, with Indigenous groups calling for an investigation into the awarding of hundreds of thousands worth of Indigenous grants to a variety of non-Indigenous groups to assist their legal opposition of land right claims.

The NT Amateur Fishermen's Association, the NT Cattlemen's Association and the NT Seafood Council received funds.

Mr Scullion told the ABC he issued NARMCO with a "show-cause notice" about how it intended to manage the perceived conflict of interest, but the company declined to comment on how it handled that and said it was following proper processes.

ASIC records show NARMCO was established by longstanding CLP member John Jansen in 2003.

According to Government records, the company received its first IAS payment in June 2015 — nine months after Mr Scullion assumed the role of Indigenous Affairs Minister.

Mr Scullion was president of the CLP until October when he was succeeded by Mr Kelly, who formerly worked as Mr Scullion's chief of staff.

Mr Kelly began working for NARMCO in February 2018.

He previously worked as former NT chief minister Adam Giles's chief of staff before being handed a lucrative role as chief executive of the NT Department of Mines and Energy in 2015.

NARMCO 'supporting regional and remote people'

NARMCO's first grant through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy was awarded in June 2015.

It received $385,000 for a 12-month project that was later amended by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to $330,000 for a 36-month project in Katherine, under the heading of "provide employee management and support".

Later in June 2015, the company received $225,000 listed as money "to provide Indigenous employment and economic development and business support services to indigenous Australians".

It was later changed to a 13-month contract from a 28-month term, which is permitted under the grant rules.

On September 13, 2017, NARMCO was again awarded $251,453 for a 10-month project in Katherine, but this time through the Aboriginal Benefits Account to "deliver outcomes by getting adults into jobs, fostering Indigenous business and assisting indigenous people".

On December 7, 2017, the company received $289,300 for "VRD Quarry Enterprises — Indigenous Business Entity Establishment" to run until June 2018.

The ABC asked Senator Scullion and NARMCO to explain how the grant money was spent for each project listed.

NARMCO said it supported "regional and remote people to establish and develop sustainable businesses and implement Indigenous employment programs", but would not release the names of which companies they worked with, citing confidentiality issues.

It said it could not comment on how it spent the money, and added that it does not distribute the funds to Indigenous companies on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.

ABC News, 31 October 2018:

The Indigenous Advancement Strategy was established in 2014 to improve employment, economic development and social participation in Indigenous communities, and has been funded to the tune of $4.9 billion.

Senator Scullion told the hearing the money would help speed up longstanding land claims in the Northern Territory by allowing non-Indigenous groups affected by the claims to submit "detriment" applications to the Aboriginal Land Commissioner.

The commissioner is due to make recommendations by the end of the year about 16 outstanding land claims which have previously been recommended for grant, but never finalised.

"I'm sure many Aboriginal people wouldn't be happy with their public money being used by third parties who are effectively trying to cease or alter an Aboriginal land claim," NLC chairman Joe Morrison told the ABC.

"I think it's a poor look."

But during the hearing, Senator Scullion rejected concerns from Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy that the funding would be used to oppose land claims.
"It is about making their position about how they use the land at the moment and about how different determinations may affect their industry in different ways," he said.

"It certainly wouldn't be about opposing land claims … this is a process about establishing what detriment they will have.

"The land commissioner can then cross-examine or question or ask for more evidence about that, but it is a requirement under the act that the land commissioner take detriment into consideration."

Funding to educate members and represent interests

Senator Scullion pointed out that the Northern Land Council had received $7.5 million in federal funding to progress the claims, and that another $1 million had gone to the land commissioner.

But Mr Morrison said AFANT, NTCA and NTSC should not have received their funding from the IAS.

"There's a process under the Land Rights Act that if people require assistance to submit detriment claims then that's dealt with by the Attorney-General's department, not by the Indigenous Affairs Minister," he said.

The Australian, 16 February 2018:

Barnaby Joyce owns land near a coal-seam gas project he promoted as resources minister, despite admitting it could be seen as a conflict of interest and pledging to sell it 4½ years ago.

The land, at Gwabegar in central NSW, is covered by the same petroleum exploration licence as Santos’s Narrabri Gas Project, which could supply up to half the state’s gas needs for the next 20 years.

Santos is seeking approval to drill up to 850 wells on 425 sites in the Narrabri project area, about 25km to the east of Mr Joyce’s land. If approved by the NSW government, the project could make way for further LNG developments in the area including, potentially, on Mr Joyce’s property.

The Deputy Prime Minister and his wife hold the land in two blocks totalling 970 hectares. They paid $230,000 for the first, on Heads Road, Gwabegar, in July 2006. They purchased an adjacent block for $342,000 in 2008.

Mr Joyce is on record as saying he didn’t realise the blocks — in The Pilliga region between Coonabarabran and Narrabri — were subject to a petroleum exploration licence when he bought them.

He told Fairfax Media before the 2013 election that he would sell the properties, acknowledging it could be “viewed as a conflict of interest”.
But the register of members’ interests, updated in January, shows he still holds the blocks.
Mr Joyce’s office told The Australian the Deputy Prime Minister was open to offers on the land, but declined to say what steps he had taken to sell it.

Real estate agents in the area said the properties were not currently listed for sale. Mr Joyce grazes cattle on the land, but locals say it is marginal farming country.
Mr Joyce advocated strongly for the project to go ahead in September last year, when, as resources minister, he and Malcolm Turnbull met with Santos and other gas companies.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Religious Freedom Review Report: a curate's egg in the hands of an Australian prime minister who doesn't understand the definition of secular or why there is a separation between Church and State


"Australia is not a secular country — it is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose.”  [Scott Morrison, 2007]

“Secular [adj] of or pertaining to the world or things not religious, sacred or spiritual; temporal, worldly.” [Patrick Hanks & Simeon Potter, Encyclopedic World Dictionary, 1971]

On 22 November 2017 then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the appointment of an Expert Panel to examine whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion.

The Panel’s Religious Freedom Review Report was delivered on 18 May 2018, accompanied by a statement that the report was now in the hands of the Prime Minister any government response was a matter for him.

The prime minister of the day is now the Liberal MP for Cook - a nakedly ambitious man who uses his public profession of Christian Pentecostal faith as a political tool.

Until this week the national electorate had no idea what the report might contain. It remained a closely guarded secret.

Which leads one to wonder if the leak which came Fairfax Media’s way is in fact Morrison preparing voters for what at best is highly likely to be proposed legislation which attempts to extend the exemptions religious institutions enjoy when it come to obeying human rights and anti-discrimination law and at worst an attempt to insert church into the heart of state.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 October 2018:

Religious schools would be guaranteed the right to turn away gay students and teachers under changes to federal anti-discrimination laws recommended by the government’s long-awaited review into religious freedom.

However the report, which is still being debated by cabinet despite being handed to the Coalition four months ago, dismisses the notion religious freedom in Australia is in “imminent peril”, and warns against any radical push to let businesses refuse goods and services such as a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The review was commissioned in the wake of last year’s same-sex marriage victory to appease conservative MPs who feared the change would restrict people’s ability to practise their religion freely.

The contents of the report - seen by Fairfax Media - are unlikely to placate conservatives and religious leaders, and will trigger concern within the LGBTI community about the treatment of gay students and teachers.

The report calls for the federal Sex Discrimination Act to be amended to allow religious schools to discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status - something some but not all states already allow.
“There is a wide variety of religious schools in Australia and ... to some school communities, cultivating an environment and ethos which conforms to their religious beliefs is of paramount importance,” the report noted.

“To the extent that this can be done in the context of appropriate safeguards for the rights and mental health of the child, the panel accepts their right to select, or preference, students who uphold the religious convictions of that school community.”

Any change to the law should only apply to new enrolments, the report said. The school would have to have a publicly available policy outlining its position, and should regard the best interests of the child as the “primary consideration of its conduct”.

The panel also agreed that faith-based schools should have some discretion to discriminate in the hiring of teachers on the basis of religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status…..

The panel did not accept that businesses should be allowed to refuse services on religious grounds, warning this would “unnecessarily encroach on other human rights” and “may cause significant harm to vulnerable groups”.

The review also found civil celebrants should not be entitled to refuse to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies if they became celebrants after it was was legalised.
The review does not recommend any changes to the Marriage Act. Nor does it recommend a dedicated Religious Freedom Act - championed by several major Christian churches - which would have enshrined religious organisations’ exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.

“Specifically protecting freedom of religion would be out of step with the treatment of other rights,” the report found.

However it did recommend the government amend the Racial Discrimination Act or create a new Religious Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s religious belief or lack thereof.

The panel said it had heard a broad range of concerns about people’s ability to “manifest their faith publicly without suffering discrimination”.

This included wearing religious symbols and dress at school or work, communicating views based on religious understandings, obtaining goods and services and engaging in public life without fear of discrimination.

The report also recommends federal legislation “to make it clear” that religious schools cannot be forced to lease their facilities for a same-sex marriage, as long as the refusal is made in the name of religious doctrine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last month told Fairfax Media new religious freedom laws were needed to safeguard personal liberty in a changing society.

“Just because things haven’t been a problem in the past doesn’t mean they won’t be a problem in the future,” he said.

While the panel accepted the right of religious school to discriminate against students on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, it could see no justification for a school to discriminate on the basis of race, disability, pregnancy or intersex status.

“Schools should be places of learning, not breeding grounds of prejudice. This looks and feels like a vindictive attempt to punish LGBTI people for achieving marriage equality."  [just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome, 2018]

As is usual for this prime minister, Morrison fronted the media with half-truths and misdirection about the Religious Freedom Review Reportimplying that the contentious matters within the report were already uniformly codified in law across all the states.

This is far from the truth.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Once more a Coalition federal government is promising savings on household electricity bills


“Throughout the 1980s, '90s, and most of the 2000s, electricity prices tracked fairly closely to general consumer price trends. In the past decade, however, electricity has shot off the charts. Since 2008 power prices have risen 117 per cent, more than four times the average price increase across sectors.” [ABC News, 18 July  2018]

All three major NSW political parties - Liberal, Nationals and Labor - along with their federal counterparts drank the Kool-Aid when it came to the alleged desirability of privatising state assets in the electricity and gas sectors of energy supply.

Here is a brief outline of the how and why...... 

DECEMBER 2010


"The completion of this first tranche of the energy reform process meets the government's objectives – we have exited electricity retailing, we have created a competitive market structure approved by the ACCC and we have received a strong financial return for the taxpayers of NSW,” he [NSW Treasurer] said…..

Earlier, the shadow treasurer, Mike Baird, said: "Whatever they finally announce, it is clear from the ongoing speculation that the receipts will be at the lower end of the $5 billion to $7 billion range, which is about half what these assets are worth – and that is before you take off the $2.3 billion in inducements for the new coalmine needed to get the deal away.

'The end result is billions of dollars lost forever."

A UBS analyst, David Leitch, said: "NSW households are in for higher electricity tariffs and more people at their front door, trying to get them to change electricity supplier."

NOVEMBER 2013


"When this bill is passed, this Government estimates that power prices will go down by 9 per cent, gas prices will go down by 7 per cent, and that means that the average power bill will be $200 a year lower and the average gas bill will be $70 a year lower," Mr Abbott said on October 15.

JUNE 2014


As of 12 May 2017, two government assets have been privatised in 2017. The most recent privatisation is the 99-year lease of a 50.4% share of Endeavour Energy. On 11 May 2017, the NSW [Berejiklian Coalition] Government announced that a consortium led by Macquarie Group's infrastructure arm had been successful in securing the tender for a price of $7.6 billion. Along with Ausgrid and Transgrid, the lease of Endeavour Energy represents the final of the three “poles and wires” sales – a key policy of the Liberal/National government in the 2015 State election. Announcing the sale, NSW Treasury stated:

The NSW Government will retain a 49.6 per cent interest in Endeavour Energy and will have ongoing influence over operations as lessor, licensor and as safety and reliability regulator.

June 2017


Electricity is now management heavy with a blow out in the number of managers relative to other workers. In addition electricity now employs an army of sales and marketing and other workers who do not actually make electricity. In addition the reforms seemed to encourage profit gauging on the part of companies in the industry who are able to inflate the asset base used in calculating the permitted return on assets. More than half the asset base appears to be ‘goodwill’ and retained earnings. There is a weird circular process in which high rates of return are capitalised in ‘goodwill’ and other fictitious or notional items while high profits guarantee high retained earnings which also feed into the asset base. In that way the unproductive capital base is allowed to increase and we are charged for capital that has no real function in producing electricity….

A host of factors have been blamed for the increase in electricity prices relative to other prices but we would point out that the main departure from the rest of the price index happened post privatisation and corporatisation.

JULY 2017


Origin, EnergyAustralia and AGL have all announced price increases for electricity and gas starting from July 1….

In NSW, residential EnergyAustralia customers will see electricity prices increase by up to 19.6 per cent. Origin Energy customers will get a 16.1 per cent rise.

DECEMBER 2017


The key supply chain cost components examined in the report include wholesale electricity purchase costs, regulated network costs and environmental policy costs.
Annual electricity prices for the representative consumer on a market offer in New South Wales:

* increased by 10.2 per cent from 2016-17 to 2017-18 due to higher wholesale electricity costs, driven by the retirement of Northern and Hazelwood generators and increasing gas prices

* are expected to decrease by an annual average of 6.6 per cent in 2018-19 and 2019-20. The expected decreases are largely attributable to decreases in wholesale electricity costs driven by expected new generation (approximately 4,100 MW across the NEM) and the return to service of the Swanbank E generator (385 MW in Queensland). In addition, in NSW, regulated network costs are uncertain in the two years to June 2020 due to the AER being required to remake revenue determinations for the NSW distribution network providers for the 2014-19 regulatory control period.

JANUARY 2018


The most significant price rises were electricity, up 12.4 per cent, fuel up 10.4 per cent, domestic holiday travel up 6.3 per cent and fruit up 9.3 per cent. 

Across New South Wales, we found theaverage annual electricity bill to be just over $1,667. However, we found that bill-payers aged in their 40s reported the highest average bills in NSW at $1,911.76. Those aged 70 or over reported the lowest average bills at $1,466.40.

JULY 2018


This was comprised of $120 due to the [national energy] guarantee and $280 due to new investment in renewable energy that was already planned, mainly because of the Renewable Energy Target, which will run to 2030….

The ESB [Energy Security Board**] proposal increases the annual average saving to $550 on 2018 prices, of which $150 is due to the guarantee and $400 due to renewable energy.


AUGUST 2018


After reading the National Energy Guarantee Consultation Paper as well as the 1 August 2018 Final Detailed Design and listening to statements made by the Turnbull Government, I personally find it hard to believe this change in federal government policy will significantly limit the rate of increases to household energy costs over time when this is based on an assumption that the market will respond by lowering prices across the Australian wholesale and retail sectors of energy supply.

Talk of money 'saved' by households is illusory as It will certainly see no reduction in the actual amounts listed on 2019-20 household electricity and gas bills once this guarantee comes into effect.

*KPMG Economics, November 2017, NEG and Electricity Pricing

Network charges represent on average about half of the electricity supply chain costs, with generation and retail costs (combined into the ‘competitive market’ category) accounting for 42%, and environment policies adding the remaining 8%, based on the latest AEMC Electricity Price Trend report.

The make up of the total average retail cost is shown in Chart 6 which reveals the single largest component of the price of electricity is distribution costs, which represented about 40% of the average cost of electricity. Over the AEMC forecast period to 2018/19, these costs are still expected to represent by far the largest component of the electricity cost stack, albeit fractionally lower in a couple of years’ time.

The next largest component is the wholesale price of electricity, which in 2015/16 represented about 28%. Under the AEMC Base Case scenario – which includes the retirement of the brown coal fired Hazelwood Power station in Victoria – this cost component had been anticipated to rise steadily over the forecast period to represent about 30% of the cost of electricity by 2018/19.

As shown in Chart 7 below, these three jurisdictions experienced higher than anticipated wholesale electricity costs in the order of between 30% and 80% when compared to original forecasts for FY2016/17. When considered on a weighted average basis, using the same methodology applied by the AEMC to estimate the values for the National Summary, wholesale electricity costs have therefore been about 17% to 20% higher than anticipated.
This increase in wholesale electricity costs pushed the bundled cost of electricity to rise by about 5% higher than anticipated by the AEMC, and shifted the relative importance of wholesale prices in the cost stack from about 28% to 31%.


Formed out of the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market (the Finkel Review), the Energy Security Board comprises an independent chair and deputy chair along with the expert heads of the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

The current Board membership is Chair Dr Kerry Schott AO,  Deputy Chair Clare Savage, Australian Energy Market Commission Chair John Pierce, Australian Energy Market Operator Chief Executive Audrey Zibelman, and the Chair of the Australian Energy Regulator Paula Conboy.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

When it comes to human rights and civil liberties is it ever safe to trust the junkyard dog or its political masters?



On 18 July 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull announced the establishment of a Home Affairs portfolio that would comprise immigration, border protection, domestic security and law enforcement agencies, as well as reforms to the Attorney-General’s oversight of Australia’s intelligence community and agencies in the Home Affairs portfolio.

 On 7 December 2017, the Prime Minister introduced the Home Affairs and Integrity Agencies Legislation Amendment Bill2017 into the House of Representatives.

This bill amends the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006, the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Act 2010, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986 and the Intelligence Services Act 2001.

The bill was referred to Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security which tabled its report and recommendations on 26 February 2018.

This new government department on steroids will be headed by millionaire former Queensland Police detective and far-right Liberal MP for Dickson, Peter Craig Dutton.

His 'front man' selling this change is Abbott protégéformer Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and current Secretary of the new Department of Home Affairs, Michael Pezzullo. 

The question every Australian needs to ask themselves is, can this current federal government, the ministers responsible for and department heads managing this extremely powerful department, be trusted not to dismantle a raft of human and civil rights during the full departmental implementation.

It looks suspiciously as though former Australian attorney-general George Brandis does not think so - he is said to fear political overreach.

The Saturday Paper, 3-9 March 2018:

On Friday last week, former attorney-general George Brandis went to see Michael Pezzullo, the secretary of the new Department of Home Affairs.

The meeting was a scheduled consultation ahead of Brandis’s departure for London to take up his post as Australia’s new high commissioner. It was cordial, even friendly. But what the soon-to-be diplomat Brandis did not tell Pezzullo during the pre-posting briefing was that he had singled him out in a private farewell speech he had given to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on the eve of his retirement from parliament two weeks earlier.

As revealed in The Saturday Paper last week, the then senator Brandis used the ASIO speech to raise concerns about the power and scope of the new department and the ambitions of its secretary. Brandis effectively endorsed the private concerns of some within ASIO that the new security structure could expose the domestic spy agency to ministerial or bureaucratic pressure.

In a regular Senate estimates committee hearing this week, Pezzullo described his meeting with Brandis – on the day before The Saturday Paper article appeared – as Opposition senators asked him for assurances that ASIO would retain its statutory independence once it moves from the attorney-general’s portfolio to become part of Home Affairs.

“I had a very good discussion on Friday,” Pezzullo told the committee, of his meeting with Brandis.

“He’s seeking instructions and guidance on performing the role of high commissioner. None of those issues came up, so I find that of interest. If he has concerns, I’m sure that he would himself raise those publicly.”

Labor senator Murray Watt pressed: “So he raised them with ASIO but not with you?”
“I don’t know what he raised with ASIO,” Pezzullo responded. “… You should ask the former attorney-general if he’s willing to state any of those concerns … He’s a high commissioner now, so he may not choose to edify your question with a response, but that’s a matter for him. As I said, he didn’t raise any of those concerns with me when we met on Friday.”

The Saturday Paper contacted George Brandis but he had no comment.

“ANY SUGGESTION THAT WE IN THE PORTFOLIO ARE SOMEHOW EMBARKED ON THE SECRET DECONSTRUCTION OF THE SUPERVISORY CONTROLS WHICH ENVELOP AND CHECK EXECUTIVE POWER ARE NOTHING MORE THAN FLIGHTS OF CONSPIRATORIAL FANCY…”

Watt asked Pezzullo for assurance there would be no change to the longstanding provisions in the ASIO Act that kept the agency under its director-general’s control and not subject to instruction from the departmental secretary. The minister representing Home Affairs in the Senate, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, said: “It is not proposed that there be a change to that effect.”

The new Department of Home Affairs takes in Immigration and Border Protection, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, known as AUSTRAC, and ASIO.
ASIO does not move until legislation is passed to authorise the shift, and will retain its status as a statutory agency.

Pezzullo addressed the fears of those questioning his department’s reach. He said some commentary mischaracterised the arrangements as “being either a layer of overly bureaucratic oversight of otherwise well-functioning operational arrangements or, worse, a sinister concentration of executive power that will not be able to be supervised and checked”.

“Both of these criticisms are completely wrong,” he said.

Pezzullo had already described his plans, both to the committee and in a speech he made in October last year, in which he spoke of exploiting the in-built capabilities in digital technology to expand Australia’s capacity to detect criminal and terrorist activity in daily life online and on the so-called “dark web”.

But the language he used, referring to embedding “the state” invisibly in global networks “increasingly at super scale and at very high volumes”, left his audiences uncertain about exactly what he meant.

Watt asked if there would be increased surveillance of the Australian people. “Any surveillance of citizens is always strictly done in accordance with the laws passed by this parliament,” Pezzullo replied.

In his February 7 speech to ASIO, George Brandis described Pezzullo’s October remarks as an “urtext”, or blueprint, for a manifesto that would rewrite how Australia’s security apparatus operates.

Pezzullo hit back on Monday. “Any suggestion that we in the portfolio are somehow embarked on the secret deconstruction of the supervisory controls which envelop and check executive power are nothing more than flights of conspiratorial fancy that read into all relevant utterances the master blueprint of a new ideology of undemocratic surveillance and social control,” Pezzullo said.

As for day to day human resources, financial management and transparent accountable governance, media reports are not inspiring confidence in Messrs. Turnbull, Dutton and Pezzullo.

The Canberra Times, 2 March 2018:

Home Affairs head Mike Pezzullo was one of the first to front Senate estimates on Monday.

It's been up and running for only weeks, but his new department is part of one of the largest government portfolios.

Having brought several security agencies into its fold, and if legislation passes letting ASIO join, the Home Affairs portfolio will be home to 23,000 public servants. 
Mr Pezzullo was also quizzed on the investigation into Roman Quaedvlieg, the head of the Australian Border Force who has been on leave since May last year, following claims he helped his girlfriend - an ABF staff member - get a job at Sydney Airport.

It was revealed the Prime Minister's department has had a corruption watchdog's report into abuse of power allegations for at least five months while Mr Quaedvlieg has been on full pay earning hundreds of thousands of dollars.