Sunday 31 January 2010

But who will arrest John Howard?

On 25 January 2010 announced a new website called Arrest Blair: for crimes against peace.

The new site is dedicated to the concept that Blair must face justice for his part in the Coalition of the Willing's unlawful invasion of Iraq:

This site offers a reward to people attempting a peaceful citizen's arrest of the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, for crimes against peace. Anyone attempting an arrest which meets the rules laid down here will be entitled to one quarter of the money collected at the time of his or her application.
Money donated to this site will be used for no other purpose than to pay bounties for attempts to arrest Tony Blair. All administration and other costs, apart from any charges added to your donations by Paypal, will be paid by the site's founder.
The intention is to encourage repeated attempts to arrest the former prime minister.

The U.K. Brown Government is at the moment in the middle of its Iraq Inquiry.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared before the inquiry on 29 January (his video evidence here) and although any reference to his now infamous and classified July 2002 private letter to then U.S. President George W. Bush (sent after their earlier April private meeting) could not be explored, the 23 July 2002 Downing Street Memo is on the public record.

In Australia we apparently think it is acceptable that the man who played a similar role in dragging this nation into a breach of international law - former prime minister John Winston Howard - is allowed to enjoy retirement without one serious question being asked of him.
Why is that so?

Times Online publication of the Downing Street Memo, May 2005 (red emphasis is mine):


From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 02

cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell


Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.

This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents.

John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.

The two broad US options were:

(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).

(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.

The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement were:

(i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF squadrons.

(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in addition.

(iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000, perhaps with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down two Iraqi divisions.

The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.

The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.

On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.

For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.

The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.

John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.

The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.


(a) We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.

(b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.

(c) CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.

(d) The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam.

He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU member states.

(e) John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.

(f) We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.

(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)


Cane Toads the movie - who da thunk it!

Cane Toads

After hearing about Cane Toads the movie wowing them at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, I'm wondering if I should take an autograph book out into the backyard tonight and ask one of the not so little blighters if he (or she) would get one of their movie star cousins to give me a footprint signature.
To Pete with affection would do nicely.

Facts gleaned from the movie's website:

Cane Toads: The Conquest is a comic yet provocative account of Australia's most notorious environmental blunder from filmmaker Mark Lewis.
Shot against the harsh and beautiful landscape of northern Australia, Cane Toads: The Conquest tracks the unstoppable journey of the toad across the continent. Director Mark Lewis (Cane Toads: An Unnatural History, The Natural History of the Chicken) injects his trademark irreverence and humor into the story as he follows a trail of human conflict, bizarre culture and extraordinary close encounters.
Filmed with high-resolution 3D technology, Cane Toads is the first Australian digital 3D feature film. Custom designed equipment allows viewers to get up close and personal with these curious creatures like never before. The unique viewing experience is like being immersed in the world of the toad......

The storyline? 102 Cane Toads (Bufo marinus) were imported to Australia in 1935 in an attempt to rid the country of the Greyback Cane Beetle, which was decimating Queensland sugar cane crops. Unfortunately, the toads were disinclined to eat cane beetles.
Instead, they set about doing what cane toads do best - multiplying, migrating and thriving. 75 years later, an estimated 1.5 billion toads occupy over 1 million square kilometers of territory – and their conquest steadily continues......
Meet Kevin Ladynski, toad taxidermist, and his 2.5kg pet toad Melrose; Monica Kraus remembers her massive childhood friend Dairy Queen; Merinda Sharp explains why she sends toads on 'trips to Alaska'; Tip Byrne laments the day his father released the toads onto their Cane Farm.

The principal cast? Millions of cane toads Australia wide, mostly from the North.

Coming to a venue near you on the NSW North Coast if cinema owner-operators have any sense.

Saturday 30 January 2010

The truth revealed? Uncorrected transcript of former British Pm Tony Blair's evidence to the Iraq Inquiry

Evidence taken on 29 January 2010 by the U.K. Iraq Inquiry was a rather pointless exercise at times - for the most part questions carefully walked around a former leader rather than confronting issues head-on.

The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair was allowed to interrupt committee members and drag out his political soap-box at length almost unchallenged.

However, what clearly comes through is the fact that Blair:
(i) was probably heavily influenced on a personal level by George W. Bush;
(ii) was determined on regime change in Iraq;
(iii) held a desire for change which was never predicated on Iraq as a hive of international terrorism;
(iv) was aware U.N. sanctions had effectively 'contained' Saddam; and
(v) presented a supposedly intelligence-driven policy position to the British people in which any identified breaches of U.N. sanctions or allegations of weapons of mass destruction were only the smoke screen behind which the Coalition of the Willing had agreed to advance their invasion agenda.

Full uncorrected 249-page transcript here.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 January 2010, British press shocked at Blair's no regrets on Saddam

Australi, austra, austri....dammit - Oztria!

Travel World website on 23 January 2010
Click on image to enlarge

General info about Australia
Once the center of power for the large Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria was reduced to a small republic after its defeat in World War I. Following annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938 and subsequent occupation by the victorious Allies in 1945, Austria's status remained unclear for a decade. A State Treaty signed in 1955 ended the occupation, recognized Austria's independence, and forbade unification with Germany. A constitutional law that same year declared the country's "perpetual neutrality" as a condition for Soviet military withdrawal. The Soviet Union's collapse in 1991 and Austria's entry into the European Union in 1995 have altered the meaning of this neutrality. A prosperous, democratic country, Austria entered the EU Economic and Monetary Union in 1999.

I don't know who should be more insulted at this sloppy confusion - Australia or Austria.

A Saturday walk on the arts side

Tamasin Pepper

Arctic Meander 2009
Suvira McDonald

School of Fish
Mark Gibson

These artists can be found at Visual Arts Network

Friday 29 January 2010

Make your own schools league table for the NSW North Coast - everyone else is!

What with many newspapers already publishing regional school performance lists from the Rudd Government's My School website (and one coyly pretending that by creating tables containing only 6 high schools & 22 primary schools it wasn't giving a quick start to local schools league tables), we all might as well join in.
Here are links to official comparative information on many (but not all) NSW North Coast schools:

Clarence Valley Anglican School
Clarence Valley Anglican School, Clarenza campus
Grafton High School
Grafton Public School
St Mary's Primary School
Westlawn Public School
Bishop Druitt College
Casuarina Steiner School
Coffs Harbour Christian Community School - Coffs Harbour Campus
Coffs Harbour Public School
Coffs Harbour Senior College
John Paul College
Narranga Public School
Orara High School
St Augustine's Primary School
Tyalla Public School
Westlawn Public School
St Joseph's Primary School
Tweed Heads Public School
Afterlee Public School
Kyogle High School
Kyogle Public School
St Brigid's Primary School
Evans River Community School
Richmond Christian College
Biala Special School
St Joseph's Primary School
Ballina High School
Alstonville High School
Woodburn Public School
St Joseph's Primary School
Broadwater Public School
Cabbage Tree Island Public School
Wardell Public School
Coraki Public School
St Joseph's Primary School
Empire Vale Public School
Rous Public School
Wyrallah Public School
Tregeagle Public School
Emmanuel Anglican College
Ballina Public School
St Francis Xavier Primary School
Alstonville Public School
Alstonville High School
ALESCO Learning Centre - Northern Rivers, Lismore
Caniaba Public School
Lismore High School
Lismore Public School
Lismore South Public School
Modanville Public School
St Carthage's Primary School
St John's College Woodlawn
Trinity Catholic College
Wilson Park School
Wyrallah Road Public School
Vistara Primary School
Summerland Christian College
Blue Hills College
Modanville Public School
Caniaba Public School
Kadina High School
Richmond River High School
Goonellabah Public School
Wooli Public School

On 30th January The Sydney Morning Herald released PDF download files of an A-Z list of all NSW school scores and 2 league tables containing Top 50 NSW High Schools and Top 50 NSW Primary Schools.
According to these media-produced tables:
Cape Byron Rudolf Steiner School came in at an equal 49th in the reading skills section. Otherwise North Coast high schools just didn't rank highly in this particular league table.
Wilsons Creek Public School (Mullumbimby) came in an equal 9th in the reading skills section,Tweed Valley College 22nd, St Mary's Primary School (Belligen) 48th in the same section and that was the limit that our primary schools rated a mention in this league table.

I can't believe it's a leader! Australian climate change policy responses

The Sydney Morning Herald reports this morning that the Federal Coalition under the leadership of the Liberal Party's Tony Abbott is considering raising the price of cigarettes to help fund the so-called environmental programs he is proposing to establish in lieu of creating an emissions trading scheme and a price for carbon.

This tax increase on tobacco is apparently part of Abbott's supposedly wide range of options on the table to replace making big polluters pay for their greenhouse gas emissions.

From 15-21 January 2010 in just seven days Victoria produced 1.895 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (via electricity from coal, natural gas and petroleum), New South Wales produced 1.970 million tonnes from the same sources, Queensland 1.592 million tonnes, and South Australia 330,000 tonnes. Without any real requirement for business to curb these gases and without the Coalition having any intention of imposing any such requirement should it return to government.

So when that internal light bulb lit up, Tony Abbott had a brilliant idea - let's tax smokers instead.1
After all each cigarette must give off at least 15mg of carbon monoxide, plus the flick of the Bic!

Is Tony Abbott turning into yet another Clayton's leader?

1 Just for the record I don't smoke

Aussie flag fuss

Now here's a man who shows some old fashioned commonsense.
David "Bangers" Bancroft, editor of the Daily Examiner in Grafton giving his Australia Day view on the fuss about flags.

THIS might sound 'unAustralian', whatever that means, but I wouldn't be disappointed if I never saw or heard another Australian flag flapping from a car window.
It might not be the right thing to say on Australia Day, but I can't stand the things.
No doubt those who buy the flags are being patriotic, and good luck to them.
But to me they are more jingoistic than a demonstration of national pride and are unnecessary.
This new addition to patriotic fervour has all the hallmarks of a commercial campaign aimed at getting the gullible to feel they aren't demonstrating properly their support of Australia unless they adorn their vehicle, their home and any other display area with an Aussie flag.
This, to me, is more at home in America than Australia, where the Stars and Stripes have always been part of the national psyche.
Such outward demonstrations of nationalism have never seemed necessary in Australia, and aren't now.
Sure, support Australian sporting teams, throw a barbecue with a few mates and feel pride in living in the best country there is. But try not to fall for the commercially motivated need to put a flag in your car window.
And at the risk of raising the ire of rampant nationalists, how about getting rid of the emblem of another country from the top corner of our flag?
You don't need a flag on your car to prove you're Australian.

Couldn't agree more.

Upriver Bill
Northern Rivers

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

DBCDE is sending out emails on Conroy's mad Internet censorship scheme

A short, snappy (and blatantly untruthful) version of the Rudd Government's plan to censor the Australian Internet from an email sent out last week by the Department of Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy.

Better be careful what you say about Stephen Conroy on Twitter then. No more threatening to set his undies on fire or vote him out of the Senate! ;-)

Thursday 28 January 2010

My School website: now that's a league table in the making

Well, the Rudd Government's comparative assessment of Australian schools (like to like, overall, government vs private) is now available on the website My School for the very first time today.
This is the message currently showing after any attempt to use the Find a School search:
"An error has occurred. Please try your request again at another time."
Nuff said!

First Blog Quote of the Month for 2010

Just as Keneally has exposed the power of the Right's faction bosses in all its bankruptcy, so has Abbott's ascension exposed the bankruptcy represented by the old guard of the Federal Liberals.
No Going Back post in The Piping Shrike post on 23rd January 2010

e-Health: something's rotten in the State of Kevin

"The End User Security Reviews clearly found that there are instances in which particular users may share user credentials (whether they be passwords or tokens) to facilitate their obligation to patient care.
In situations such as a hectic Emergency Department or a large onsite trauma situation, the adherence to business processes which promote unique identification and authentication of users of the HI Service may not be practically possible.
The security controls and awareness levels found in these assessments have been varied."
{NEHTA - HI Service Security and Access Framework 13/11/09 PUBLIC}

The Medicare smart card and national health information database rolls on.
According to the National e-Health Transition Authority this is its board which is facilitating the progress of this giant collection of the nation's most personal information:

David Gonski AC - NEHTA Chair
Australian public figure and businessman.
Dr David Ashbridge
Chief Executive of the Northern Territory Department of Health and Families.
Mark Cormack
ACT Health Chief Executive.
Dr Peter Flett
Director-General of the Department of Health of WA.
Jane Halton
Secretary of the Australian Department of Health and Ageing.
Prof Debora Picone AM
Director-General of NSW Health.
Mick Reid
Former chief of staff for Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon, now the Director-General of Queensland Health.
David Roberts
Secretary with the Department of Health & Human Services in Tasmania.
Dr Tony Sherbon
Dr Tony Sherbon is the Chief Executive of the South Australian Department of Health.
Fran Thorn
Secretary of the Victorian Department of Human Services.

Notice the complete absence of anyone from a consumer health lobby group in the key positions of importance?
No, the board is full of former bankers, accountants, bureaucrats, and gawd help us, a couple of individuals who helped drive the North Coast Area Health Service into the dismal state it's in today.
It is only in a list of organisations invited to attend the NEHTA Stakeholder Reference Forum that one consumer health group is invited inside the tent.
I imagine it's no coincidence that this single consumer organisation in that 33 strong group is an organisation which is firmly guided by government, receives funding from the Dept. of Health & Aging, was actively engaged in creating a so-called consumer demand for e-health and remains committed to the database scheme regardless of emerging concerns.
Even this feeble form of consumer protection is not participating in each internal working group.

NEHTA's Stakeholder Reference list:
ACT Health Department
Department of Health and Ageing
Northern Territory Department of Health and Community Services
NSW Health
Queensland Department of Health
South Australia Department of Health
Tasmanian Department of Health and Community Services
Victorian Department of Human Services
Western Australia Health Department
Industry Associations and Peak Bodies
Aged Care IT Council
Allied Health Professions Organisation (AHPA)
Australian Association of Pathology Practices (AAPP)
Australian Association of Practice Managers (AAPM)
Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in HealthCare (ACSQH)
Australian General Practice Network (AGPN)
Australian Health Insurance Association (AHIA)
Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA)
Australian Medical Association
Australian Medical Association (AMA)
Coalition of National Nursing Organisations (CONNO)
College of Nursing (CON)
Consumers Health Forum (CHF)
HCF Australia
Health Informatics Society of Australia (HISA) and Coalition for e-health
Medical Software Industry Association (MSIA)
National Coalition of Public Pathology (NCOPP)
Pharmacy Guild of Australia
Private Hospital CIO Forum
Private Hospital CIO Group
Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP)
Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS)
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR)
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP)

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Federal election campaign information 2010: Who is funding Australian hospitals?

By now no-one is in doubt that this is an election year across Australia and, if Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce, Joe Hockey, Stephen Conroy, Jenny Macklin and Nicola Roxon are any indication, this will be a year filled to the brim with politically motivated misinformation.

Although I (like many others) have come to expect a high degree of doublespeak and obfuscation from those elected to federal and state parliaments, it is not something the electorate should tolerate.

The 2007 federal election campaign demonstrated that NSW North Coast candidates for elected office had not always factored in the possibility that voters would use the Internet to check the 'facts' they presented. At least one of these local candidates had obviously hoped that his face and a soundbite would last longer in voters' minds than the truth - needless to say he was spectacularly unsuccessful in his bid for a parliamentary seat.

Hopefully this year's local candidates will be mindful of that salutary lesson and stick to factual accounts and realisitic promises.

The public hospital system is a constant source of concern and debate on health will likely form part of the election campaigns of all major political parties during the 2010 federal election.
To offset at least some of the inevitable mudslinging, here are excerpts from The state of our public hospitals:June 2009 report (C'wealth Dept of Health & Aging) with regard to beds, funding sources and basic costs.

How many hospitals were there?

At June 2008, Australia had 1,314 hospitals, of which 58 per cent (762) were public.

There were 742 public acute hospitals in Australia, ranging from small remote hospitals with a few beds providing a narrow range of services, to large metropolitan hospitals providing a wide range of specialist services.

How many beds were there?

The number of available beds indicates the availability of hospital services. An available bed is defined as a bed which is immediately available for use by a patient and may include same-day beds, neonatal cots, hospital-in-the-home and overnight beds.

In 2007–08, the total number of available beds nationally was 84,235.
In 2007-08, the number of available public hospital beds was 56,467 (67 per cent). This means there were around 2.5 beds per 1,000 people.
The number of available private hospital beds was 27,768 or about 1.3 beds per 1,000 people.

Who funds hospitals?

Australia spent an estimated $94 billion on all health care in 2006–07 (the latest year for which this figure is available). More than a quarter ($27 billion) was spent on public hospital services. Almost 8 per cent ($7.1 billion) was spent on private hospitals.

The Australian Government funded around 40 per cent of public hospital services expenditure ($10.8 billion) through public hospital funding, rebates for private health insurance, hospital services for veterans and direct expenditure such as payments for blood products, specialised drugs and grants for diagnostic equipment.

State, Territory and Local Governments contributed 53 per cent ($14.3 billion) of public hospital services funding. Private sources contributed 7 per cent ($1.9 billion), these included private health insurance benefits and out-of-pocket payments from patients.

In comparison, more than 70 per cent (nearly $5 billion) of private hospital expenditure came via private health insurers. Of this, over 23 per cent (nearly $1.7 billion) was provided by the Australian Government through health insurance premium rebates and 47 per cent ($3.3 billion) came from premiums paid by contributors and other revenue to insurers. These figures do not include funding provided by the Australian Government through the Medicare Benefits and Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedules or for blood and blood products for patients in private hospitals.

What was the cost of an average patient?

The average cost of a patient treated in a public hospital in 2007–08 was $4,232 (excluding depreciation). This cost covers nursing and medical staff, supplies such as surgical dressings and support services such as meals, cleaning and security.

Salaries for medical and nursing staff represent 50 per cent of admitted patient costs.

Placing those climate change denialists into perspective

Information Is Beautiful attempts to visulise those oft cited numbers used to support anti-global warming claims.

Click on images to enlarge

Tuesday 26 January 2010

26 January 2010 is also a day we celebrate........

.......the courage and resilience of those original Australians, the Aboriginal communities across this nation.

A thought on Australia Day 2010: 'according to local laws, regulations and policies, some search results are not shown'

The Great Rudd screenshot found at The Orstrahyun

According to local laws, regulations and policies, some search results are not shown.

This is the current legend at the bottom of a Google China search result page due to that country's mandatory national Internet censorship.

This is also the information Australians may see at the bottom of a Google Australia, Yahoo! or Bing search result page sometime after Australia Day 2011 if the Rudd Government insists on censoring the Australian Internet.

The Scot and A Currency Lad battle it out over Teh Republic

There is nothing like a uninformed argument over constitutional monarchy versus republic and it was played out again in the letters column of The Daily Examiner on 23 January 2010 between a Scots-born Aussie letter writer and a Currency Lad deputy editor.

The crown

SUBJECT: Throwing in the crown. I do not think that the editorial by Mr Carroll in the DEX edition of January 20 served his newspaper well. A referendum on the subject of Australia becoming a republic was held just a few years ago. The case for a republic was led by Malcolm Turnbull and failed at the ballot box. I wonder if Mr Carroll seriously considered why this should be.
Was he aware that the most stable countries in the world are constitutional monarchies and that most of the world's refugees are escaping from republics controlled by despots and the like.
A lot of those people have found sanctuary in this country and many more wish they were here.
Leave the subject alone Mr Carroll. It will resolve itself in time and is deserving of more than your immature and vain comments in the editor's column.


EDITOR'S NOTE: The referendum was held more than 10 years ago, and not 'a few' as you suggest in your missive. Times have changed, Thomas. Yes, the case for a republic was led ineptly - by Malcolm Turnbull. The republicans were divided over the proposed republican model - and the rest, as they say, is history. As most would agree, the referendum should never have been about the proposed model. Thomas, are you seriously suggesting Australia would descend into anarchy without the guiding influence of Queen Elizabeth? Rot. -Adam Carroll.

Monday 25 January 2010

The Iraq Inquiry: so what did the then Australian PM John Howard know and when did he know it?

The Brown Labor Government has convened an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the unlawful invasion of Iraq by Britain (as part the Coalition of the Willing) and lack of evidence supporting the reasons given for going to war.

This coalition included Australia, but thus far former Prime Minister John Howard and his Cabinet are escaping scrutiny at home, with the exception of an October 2003 censure motion passed by the Senate.

Perhaps the Chicot-led inquiry (which is still conducting public hearings through 2010) will give some indication as to Howard's role in staging the invasion, given he was so publicly proud of this role and his association with then British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush on 28 March 2003:

Howard of course picked up the ball and enthusiastically ran with it without too much urging as he had earlier told the National Press Club on 13 March 2003:

I did speak to him [President GW Bush] yesterday. He didn't ask me to lobby anyone, but if you want to know, I have already spoken to a number of countries and I hope to speak to others. I had a conversation with President Musharraf of Pakistan last week. I'm pleased to say that part of the conversation was an indulgence by both of us in our common love of a particular sport. And I spoke two nights ago to President Fox of Mexico, and I hope to speak to one or two other leaders over the course of the next day or so. But I have not been asked to lobby by President Bush. I have not been asked to lobby by Tony Blair. There are somethings that I can usefully do, and I'm doing them, but we haven't been sent a list of countries to lobby. It doesn't work that way, whatever may be the view.......
In the end, all of these things involve questions of judgement. We're not talking about proving to the, beyond reasonable doubt, to the satisfaction of a jury at the Central Criminal Court in Darlinghurst, if you'll excuse my Sydney origins, I mean if you wait for that kind of proof, you know, it's virtually Pearl Harbour. You've got to make judgements, and judgements are made and I have given you the judgement of the [inaudible] and I've given you our judgement. I mean, people are saying well, you know, where is the further proof? I mean, what I am saying is you have Iraq with weapons of mass destruction, Iraq's terrible track record, refusing to disarm, the world in effect buckles at the knees and doesn't disarm Iraq....
Iraq is demonstrably, to use my language, a rogue state. If we don't make sure that Iraq is disarmed, that of itself will encourage other rogue states to acquire and develop weapons of mass destruction....

Of course the British inquiry may never reveal any information on the part Howard played, as it is well within the realms of possibility that as soon as this inquiry was mooted the Australian Government made representations to the effect that all mention of our involvement should be kept to a minimum during proceedings. The Rudd Government would not enjoy talk of war criminals and national culpability in an election year, given its current tacit support of the War on Terror.

From The Iraq Inquiry website:

The Prime Minister announced on 15 June 2009 that an Inquiry would be conducted to identify lessons that can be learned from the Iraq conflict. The Iraq Inquiry was officially launched on 30 July 2009. At the launch the Chair of the Inquiry, Sir John Chilcot, set out the Inquiry's Terms of Reference:
"Our terms of reference are very broad, but the essential points, as set out by the Prime Minister and agreed by the House of Commons, are that this is an Inquiry by a committee of Privy Counsellors. It will consider the period from the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009, embracing the run-up to the conflict in Iraq, the military action and its aftermath. We will therefore be considering the UK's involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as possible, what happened and to identify the lessons that can be learned. Those lessons will help ensure that, if we face similar situations in future, the government of the day is best equipped to respond to those situations in the most effective manner in the best interests of the country."
The Inquiry committee members are Sir John Chilcot (Chairman), Sir Lawrence Freedman, Sir Martin Gilbert, Sir Roderic Lyne and Baroness Usha Prashar.
The Inquiry will take evidence over a number of months, with as many hearings as possible held in public. Hearings will begin in the autumn and continue into the New Year. A report of the Inquiry's findings will be published at the end of this process, but as the Inquiry has such a complex task ahead of it the report is unlikely to be ready for publication before summer 2010. The Inquiry committee intends to include in the report all but the most sensitive information essential to our national security. The report will then be debated in Parliament.

So far over sixty witnesses have been heard in sitting days spread over seven weeks. Evidence presented so far is posted on the website as transcript or video.

Censored! Great Australian Internet Blackout

As part of ******

Sunday 24 January 2010

EFA questions about mandatory national ISP-level Internet filtering which shoud be answered by Austrlaia's Comminications Minister

Colin Jacobs of Electronic Frontiers Australia has posted the following questions for the Australian Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy:

The top 10 filtering questions yet to be answered

The Rudd Government's mandatory ISP filtering bill will soon be introduced into Parliament, and we can only hope that the debate there will focus more on the real merits of the scheme – which are few and far between – than empty rhetoric about protecting children. When the debate happens, here are some questions the Government needs to answer under the glare of public scrutiny.

1. Given the trouble and expense of this policy, you must have some pretty convincing evidence that children are being constantly exposed to RC material. How was your research conducted and will it be released to the public?

(In fact, research indicates that of all the threats kids face online, accidental exposure to disturbing content is about the least significant.)

2. Two-thirds of Internet-connected households don't have school-age children. Isn't forcing a filter onto them as well as businesses unnecessary?

(We have never heard a cogent explanation why the filter should be mandatory and not opt-in, or why it's a better solution than more comprehensive and customisable PC-based filters.)

3. Given the reasonably poor uptake of filters by parents in the past, what makes you so sure the Australian people want a filter at a national level?

(Survey data shows that parents who don't install filters do so mainly because they consider them unnecessary or too restrictive, not for technical or cost reasons.)

4. Why did you meet with the Australian Christian Lobby before making last week's announcements? Have you met with groups opposed to the filter?

(Conroy's office ignores our polite requests to make our case.)

5. In targeting child pornography, isn't the blacklist mechanism, which relies on the media regulator and the Australian public, a poor way to track down this material compared to investigations by law enforcement professionals?

(Illegal material is not typically published on the open web, and when it is, is usually taken down quickly.)

6. In the past you have indicated that the blacklist will include material imported from overseas groups like the Internet Watch Foundation. Is it still the case that lists prepared by unaccountable third parties overseas might be part of Australian censorship?

(The Internet Watch Foundation's list caused controversy in Britain when it added a Wikipedia page to its list in 2008.)

7. The Enex trial indicated tests at speeds far below those promised by the new National Broadband Network. Won't the filter interfere with the rollout of this much more important project?

(We can't understand why the Government is pursuing the filtering policy so zealously when the $43 billion NBN is so clearly a higher priority for the country.)

8. Experts say than an ISP filter is easy to circumvent by anyone who wants to. Doesn't that undermine the usefulness of the entire enterprise?

(It's inevitable that getting around the filter will be easy. Therefore, it only prevents accidental access to any site on the list.)

9. When they reach banned websites, will Australians see a message from the government informing them why the page was blocked, or will the page just refuse to load?

(We have many more worries about transparency in the system, especially concerning the oversight of the list itself.)

10. What would stop some future conservative governments adding to the blacklist in a campaign against dangerous or immoral content?

(Of course, this question only has one answer: Nothing. Once the blacklisting has begun, it's hard to imagine it will never expand, let alone ever be rolled back.)

Sadly, EFA suspects that if these issues have been considered at all by the Government, they do not have good answers ready. We maintain that until all of them can be addressed satisfactorily, mandatory ISP filtering amounts to nothing more than a political stunt designed to wedge the opposition and garner some easy votes.

Australian Health Minister Nicola Roxon is not telling the truth about the Medicare e-card

Remember over the course of 2009 the Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon assuring everyone within hearing that the new Medicare smart card would contain data and, give access to a database, which could be checked for accuracy by individual patients and that information would only be given out if the individual patient agreed to participate in the e-health scheme?
This is what the Minister was putting about at the time:
Eventually, the plan is for each person to have an individual e-health record, which holds their personal details; a summary health profile that can be shared with the person's permission between treating doctors; event summaries such as hospital discharge reports, care plans and test results, and a self-care management record where people can add their own material. and Ms Roxon has said participation in e-health records schemes would be voluntary and yet again All Australian residents will be allocated an Individual Healthcare Identifier (IHI) to support better communication between healthcare providers involved in patient treatment – but no patient will be forced to use it to access any health service.
Believed her did you?
Well, she told whoppers - barefaced and knowingly.

The proof is in the draft Healthcare Identifiers Bill 2010 which contains no precise provisions along those lines.
All the bill does is allow for the collection, storage and dissemination of personal and health information without the patient's explicit knowledge or consent.
This outrageous bill relies on p*ss poor protections found in the Commonwealth Privacy Act, which has few teeth to redress bureaucratic wrongdoing in relation to misuse of personal information or inaccurate record keeping.
The Privacy Act was never designed to cover a national health information datatbase and National Privacy Principles also only contain general intents that informed consent be given for data collection and dissemination or that an individual be given access to their information {thanks to Clarencegirl for pointing that out to me}
As for what looks like exemption for incorporated medical practices from any application of the Criminal Code in relation to improper handling or misuse of personal health information compiled for or received from the national database - well the mind boggles.
While NEHTA's claim that “There is also a very strict audit trail so that any individual can know that someone has accessed their record in the system which is an additional layer of security" is just plain absurd when there is no legislative requirement in place which would allow any individual patient to be informed if their records had been accessed and by whom.
But what really has the Rudd Government falling down that rabbit hole into an alternative reality is the fact that politicians and "well-known personalities" will be given special false identities to prevent their medical records falling into the wrong hands.
Apparently the threat of your personal medical details falling into the wrong hands is an acceptable risk, but the risk is not acceptable when it comes to the personal medical details of Rudd & Roxon or their mates. {Yep, three cheers here for egalitarian Australia}
And what is the Rudd Government going to do with all this very detailed information (right down to whether a twin was delivered first or second) it intends to collect?
Well b#gger all, because no state or territory or hospital or medical practice or doctor or community nurse is anywhere near geared up for this giant trawl though the nations' private life and may never be.
For state governments have not proceeded past a sort of glorified memorandum of understanding on e-health in effect until 30 June 2012.
Roxon's information collection through compulsory sixteen-digit health identifiers is looking more and more like a national identity database in disguise.
No wonder there's such an uproar among the privacy watchdogs.
When did the Australian Labor Party lose its basic common sense?