Wednesday 30 November 2016

Review of the Four Major Banks (First Report) published 24 November 2016

House of Representatives Standing Committee Review of the Four Major Banks (First Report), November 2016, opening lines of Chair’s forward:
Banking regulation should have two key goals: promoting financial stability and achieving strong outcomes for consumers. Financial stability is critical – but so is ensuring that consumers get a fair deal from the banking sector.

Due to Australia’s strong regulatory framework and the banking sector’s prudent management of financial risk, no Australian bank regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has ever failed. We need only consider the economic impact of bank failures in other nations to understand the importance of a stable banking system.

However, while they have remained financially strong, Australia’s major banks have let Australians down too frequently in too many other ways.

Australians turn to banks for assistance when making some of the most important decisions and facing some of the most serious challenges of their lives: borrowing to buy their first home; investing to support their retirement; and, in some cases, accessing insurance policies that they had hoped they would never need.

Australians should be able to trust that their bank will act in their best interests when they turn to them for help. It is clear that in some cases this has not happened….

Financial Review, graphic, 24 November 2016:

America begins to gird for battle against Trump's ideological excesses - Part 2

STATEMENT, 15 November 2016:
As scholars of Jewish history, we are acutely attuned to the fragility of democracies and the consequences for minorities when democracies fail to live up to their highest principles.  The United States has a fraught history with respect to Native Americans, African Americans and other ethnic and religious minorities.  But this country was founded on ideals of liberty and justice and has made slow, often painful progress to achieve them by righting historic wrongs and creating equal rights and opportunities for all.  No group has been more fortunate in benefiting from this progress than American Jews.  Excluded by anti-Semitism from many professions and social organizations before the Second World War, Jews in the postwar period became part of the American majority, flourishing economically and politically and accepted socially.  There are now virtually no corners of American life to which Jews cannot gain entry.  But mindful of the long history of their oppression, Jews have often been at the forefront of the fight for the rights of others in this country.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s electoral victory, it is time to re-evaluate where the country stands. The election campaign was marked by unprecedented expressions of racial, ethnic, gender-based, and religious hatred, some coming from the candidate and some from his supporters, against Muslims, Latinos, women, and others.  In the days since the election, there have been numerous attacks on immigrant groups, some of which likely drew inspiration from the elevation of Mr. Trump to the presidency of the United States.
Hostility to immigrants and refugees strikes particularly close to home for us as historians of the Jews.  As an immigrant people, Jews have experienced the pain of discrimination and exclusion, including by this country in the dire years of the 1930s. Our reading of the past impels us to resist any attempts to place a vulnerable group in the crosshairs of nativist racism.  It is our duty to come to their aid and to resist the degradation of rights that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric has provoked.
However, it is not only in defense of others that we feel called to speak out.  We witnessed repeated anti-Semitic expressions and insinuations during the Trump campaign.  Much of this anti-Semitism was directed against journalists, either Jewish or with Jewish-sounding names.  The candidate himself refused to denounce—and even retweeted--language and images that struck us as manifestly anti-Semitic.  By not doing so, his campaign gave license to haters of Jews, who truck in conspiracy theories about world Jewish domination.
We condemn unequivocally those agitators who have ridden Trump’s coattails to propagate their toxic ideas about Jews. More broadly, we call on all fair-minded Americans to condemn unequivocally the hateful and discriminatory language and threats that have been directed by him and his supporters against Muslims, women, Latinos, African-Americans, disabled people, LGBT people and others. Hatred of one minority leads to hatred of all. Passivity and demoralization are luxuries we cannot afford. We stand ready to wage a struggle to defend the constitutional rights and liberties of all Americans. It is not too soon to begin mobilizing in solidarity.
Mika Ahuvia, University of Washington
Allan Amanik, Brooklyn College of CUNY
Karen Auerbach, Brandeis University
Leora Auslander, University of Chicago
Eugene M. Avrutin, University of Illinois
And 193 more signatories

Jonathan Greenblatt, director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
You Do Not Represent Us: An Open Letter to Donald Trump

Dear Mr. Trump:

At the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, students are taught to represent the highest levels of respect and integrity. We are taught to embrace humility and diversity. We can understand why, in seeking America’s highest office, you have used your degree from Wharton to promote and lend legitimacy to your candidacy.

As a candidate for President, and now as the presumptive GOP nominee, you have been afforded a transformative opportunity to be a leader on national and international stages and to make the Wharton community even prouder of our school and values.

However, we have been deeply disappointed in your candidacy.

We, proud students, alumni, and faculty of Wharton, are outraged that an affiliation with our school is being used to legitimize prejudice and intolerance. Although we do not aim to make any political endorsements with this letter, we do express our unequivocal stance against the xenophobia, sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry that you have actively and implicitly endorsed in your campaign.

The Wharton community is a diverse community. We are immigrants and children of immigrants, people of color, Muslims, Jews, women, people living with or caring for those with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ community. In other words, we represent the groups that you have repeatedly denigrated, as well as their steadfast friends, family, and allies.

We recognize that we are fortunate to be educated at Wharton, and we are committed to using our opportunity to make America and the world a better place — for everyone. We are dedicated to promoting inclusion not only because diversity and tolerance have been repeatedly proven to be valuable assets to any organization’s performance, but also because we believe in mutual respect and human dignity as deeply held values. Your insistence on exclusion and scapegoating would be bad for business and bad for the American economy. An intolerant America is a less productive, less innovative, and less competitive America.

We, the undersigned Wharton students, alumni, and faculty, unequivocally reject the use of your education at Wharton as a platform for promoting prejudice and intolerance. Your discriminatory statements are incompatible with the values that we are taught and we teach at Wharton, and we express our unwavering commitment to an open and inclusive American society.

Signed by 4,028 members of the Wharton community as of 6 November 2016. 

This letter reflects the personal views of its signatories only and is not affiliated with the Wharton School. The Wharton School takes no political position and does not comment on its students, alumni, or faculty.

Democratic Congresswoman for 5th District of Massachusetts Katherine Clarkmedia release, 17 November 2016:

Washington, D.C. -- Congresswoman Katherine Clark has introduced legislation to ensure that U.S. Presidents are required to resolve any conflicts of interest with regard to financial interests and official responsibilities. Current law prohibits federal office holders from engaging in government business when they stand to gain profit. The President and Vice President are currently exempt from this statute. 
Clark’s Presidential Accountability Act removes this exemption and requires the President and Vice President to place their assets in a certified blind trust or disclose to the Office of Government Ethics and the public when they make a decision that affects their personal finances. 
This issue has been elevated to greater importance as concerns of conflicts of interest have surfaced in the first week of the President-elect’s transition period. From the Trump Organization’s federal contract to operate the President-elect’s hotel in the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, D.C. to the scale of his debt to foreign banks, the President-elect’s business interests present an unprecedented level of conflict. Trump has also appointed his children to serve in leadership positions on both the President-elect’s transition team and his businesses. 
Clark’s Presidential Accountability Act prohibits the President from engaging in government responsibilities from which they or their families can benefit financially.
“The President of the United States has the power to affect how our tax dollars are spent, who the federal government does business with, and the integrity of America’s standing in a global economy,” said Clark. “Every recent president in modern history has taken steps to ensure his financial interests do not conflict with the needs of the American people. The American people need to be able to trust that the President’s decisions are based on the best interests of families at home, and not the President’s financial interests.”
Previous American presidents including Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all used some form of blind trust or placed their assets in an investment vehicle over which they had no control.
Full text of H.R. 6340 can be found here.
The Hill, 23 November 2016:

A number of Democratic Electoral College electors are planning to use their votes to undermine the election process in opposition to President-elect Donald Trump,
Politico is reporting.

Some electors are lobbying their Republican counterparts to vote for someone other than Trump in an attempt to deny him the 270 votes required to elect him, according to the news outlet.

They are also contemplating whether to cast their votes for someone other than Hillary Clinton, like Mitt Romney or Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio).

With at least six electors already vowing to become "faithless," the defection could be the most significant since 1808, when six Democratic-Republican electors refused to vote for James Madison, choosing vice presidential candidate George Clinton instead.

The electors acknowledge that it is unlikely that they will be able to block Trump from gaining office, Politico reported, but they are optimistic that their effort will raise enough questions about the Electoral College to reform or abolish it.

"If it gets into the House, the controversy and the uncertainty that would immediately blow up into a political firestorm in the U.S. would cause enough people — my hope is — to look at the whole concept of the Electoral College," one of the electors told Politico.

It’s unclear how many, if any, Republicans have signed on to the effort.

Twenty-nine states legally require their electors to obey the results of the popular vote in their state.

The Washington Post, 25 November 2016:

An election recount will take place soon in Wisconsin, after former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein filed a petition Friday with the state’s Election Commission, the first of three states where she has promised to contest the election result.

The move from Stein, who raised millions since her Wednesday announcement that she would seek recounts of Donald Trump’s apparent election victories in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, came just 90 minutes before Wisconsin’s 5 p.m. Friday deadline to file a petition…..

Trump secured a total of 1,404,000 votes in Wisconsin, according to the commission; Clinton had 1,381,823.

In the end, Stein, who secured 31,006 votes in Wisconsin, was not the only presidential candidate to demand a recount. Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, the Reform Party nominee who got 1,514 Wisconsin votes, also filed a recount petition, according to the state’s Election Commission.

To be on the safe side, the group of experts urged a recount — but it was Stein’s campaign that ended up demanding one, soliciting at first $2.5 million and later up to $7 million to fund the recounts. As of Friday evening, Stein’s campaign reported taking in over $5.25 million in recount-related donations — the most by a third-party candidate in history.

Wisconsin has the first deadline of the three states in question. If Stein’s campaign wishes to file recount petitions in the other states as promised, she must do so by Monday to meet Pennsylvania’s deadline, and Wednesday to meet the Nov. 30 deadline in Michigan.

In a statement, Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Michael Haas guessed that the cost and complexity of the recount would be in excess of the state’s last recount in 2011, which carried a price tag of more than $520,000. In that recount over a state Supreme Court seat, the commission had to recount 1.5 million votes — about half the 2.975 million ballot votes that were cast during the 2016 presidential election.

Jill Stein website as of 30 November 2016:

Congratulations on meeting the recount and legal costs for Wisconsin and Pennsylvania! Raising money to pay for the first two recounts so quickly is a miraculous feat and a tribute to the power of grassroots organizing.
Now that we have completed funding Wisconsin's recount (we filed on Friday) and fundraising for Pennsylvania's voter-initiated recount (due Monday), we will focus on raising the needed funds for Michigan's recount (due Wednesday). The breakdown of these costs is described below!

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Iluka Development Application No. SUB2015/0034: "The Bob Jelly Gazette" decides it always knew it would happen

In March 2016 the Ratepayers Association of Iluka Inc. published its regular newsletter in which its president, real estate agent Graeme Lynn, stated the following:
Eight months later and the story has changed – now we’re told there was always going to be a major revision of the development application:

As  for those ordinary people who “suddenly became town planners and without any knowledge were telling everyone the design was poor and needed redoing”.

Well it appears that the “experts” are not as disdainful as Bob Jelly & Co, because this turned up in one of the documents being submitted to the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel on behalf of the developer:
So   congratulations to all those locals at Iluka who took the photographs, did the geo-plotting and otherwise supplied information for the Thursday, 16 June 2016 blog post

The real reason Australian Attorney-General George Brandis was determined to oust Commonwealth Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson

Finally the truth is out concerning the extraordinary behaviour of Attorney-General and Liberal Senator for Queensland, George Brandis.

Exhibit A surfaced as the principal reason Brandis wanted to force the then Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Justin Gleeson, from office…..

HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA, judgement summary, 16 May 2016:

[2016] HCA 21

Today the High Court unanimously held that the Bell Group Companies (Finalisation of Matters and Distribution of Proceeds) Act 2015 (WA) ("the Bell Act") is invalid in its entirety by the operation of s 109 of the Constitution because of inconsistency between its provisions and provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (Cth) and the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (Cth) (collectively, "the Tax Acts").

In November 2015, the Parliament of Western Australia enacted the Bell Act "to provide a legislative framework for the dissolution, and administration of the property, of The Bell Group Ltd ACN 008 666 993 (In Liquidation) and certain of its subsidiaries and for related purposes". The Bell Act was enacted to deal with a list of companies, each defined in the Bell Act as a "WA Bell Company" and each either in liquidation or deregistered. The Commonwealth is a substantial creditor of a number of WA Bell Companies in respect of taxation liabilities.

The purported legal operation and practical effect of the Bell Act is that the State of Western Australia ("the State") collects, pools, and vests in a State authority, the property of each WA Bell Company. The State then determines in its "absolute discretion" who is paid an amount or has property transferred to or vested in them out of the pooled property (if anyone). To the extent that the State chooses not to distribute the pooled property of the WA Bell Companies, the surplus vests in the State.

In each proceeding, the parties stated a special case and questions of law arising for the opinion of the Full Court. The questions of law include whether the Bell Act (or certain provisions of the Bell Act) is invalid by the operation of s 109 of the Constitution because of inconsistency with one or more provisions of the Tax Acts.

By majority, the High Court held that the Bell Act purports to create a scheme under which Commonwealth tax debts are stripped of the characteristics ascribed to them by the Tax Acts as to their existence, their quantification, their enforceability and their recovery. The rights and obligations which arose and had accrued to the Commonwealth as a creditor of the WA Bell Companies in liquidation, and to the Commissioner of Taxation, under a law of the Commonwealth prior to the commencement of the Bell Act are altered, impaired or detracted from by the Bell Act. That alteration or impairment of, or detraction from, the Tax Acts engages s 109 of the Constitution which operates to render the offending provisions of the Bell Act invalid. It was not possible to read down offending aspects of the Bell Act nor were the offending provisions able to be severed from the rest of the Bell Act. The Court held, therefore, that the Bell Act is invalid in its entirety. That being so, the Court found it unnecessary to consider other challenges to the validity of the Bell Act.

This statement is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the High Court or to be used in any later consideration of the Court's reasons.

And the mainstream media filled in the blanks in what is looking increasingly like an abuse of ministerial power on the part of the Attorney-General as well as a behind the scenes attempt to flout the Australian Constitution……

Yahoo! News, 25 November 2016:

A secret political deal between the Federal and State governments to let WA claw back $1 billion from Alan Bond's collapsed Bell Group was torpedoed by submissions made by Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson on behalf of the Australian Tax Office.

It is understood Mr Gleeson's submissions were critical in events that led to his resignation last month.

A senior Federal source told The West Australian that Attorney-General George Brandis verbally instructed Mr Gleeson earlier this year, as counsel for the A-G, not to run a particular argument in the High Court when a Bell creditor and its liquidator challenged the constitutionality of WA's attempt to take control of the group's $1.8 billion.

The West Australian understands Senator Brandis told Mr Gleeson an understanding had been reached between the Federal and WA governments to finally end more than two decades of litigation stemming from the group's collapse.

The ATO, which at nearly $300 million was one of Bell's four main creditors, separately approached the Solicitor-General to also act as its counsel and to run the argument for it.
Despite Senator Brandis' instruction, the ATO's written submission to the High Court — authored by Mr Gleeson — used the precise legal argument that the Attorney-General had assured his State counterpart Michael Mischin would be avoided by the Commonwealth.

"Mr Gleeson advanced an argument that caused the WA Government to think the Commonwealth had acted in bad faith," the senior Federal source said.

Mr Mischin was infuriated by the ATO's move, not only because its argument in the High Court was on a basis the Commonwealth had promised not to advance, but because he thought the tone of the agency's submission professed WA's ignorance of the Constitution.

In fact, the Commonwealth was kept well abreast of the State's intentions, with WA openly discussing the constitutional issues concerning its legislation and even sharing early drafts.
WA Treasurer Mike Nahan had received personal and written assurances early last year from then Federal counterpart Joe Hockey that the Commonwealth would not oppose the State Governments move.

On the weekend of April 2-3, just two days before the High Court hearing, Mr Mischin repeatedly called Senator Brandis and Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer to seek an agreement that would avert Commonwealth involvement in the case — but to no avail.

The ATO was heard in the High Court case with its arguments — that the WA laws were inconsistent with Federal tax law — used to effectively "kill" the State's legislation.

On April 12, five days after the High Court had heard the case, Mr Mischin and Senator Brandis had what witnesses say was a "blazing row" when the two attorneys-general met in Perth. Mr Mischin told Senator Brandis he was unhappy that the Commonwealth intervened in the case on the grounds pursued in court.

On May 16, the High Court ruled 7-0 that the legislation, which sought to elevate the Insurance Commission of WA to the front of the queue of creditors, was "invalid in its entirety".
It led to Senator Brandis believing Mr Gleeson, as the second law officer, had disobeyed instructions from him, the first law officer, the Federal source said.

On May 4, Senator Brandis issued a directive that any department or agency seeking legal opinion from the Solicitor-General must first get Attorney-General approval…..

…..Senator Brandis believed Mr Gleeson should have acted as the Government's barrister, acting within the confines of the Attorney-General's instructions, Mr Gleeson appears to have seen his role differently.

During a recent parliamentary inquiry, Mr Gleeson said the Solicitor-General was both independent and a key element of the government.

"The Solicitor-General is independent. The independence is protected by the statute," Mr Gleeson said.

"The Solicitor-General has an important role in assisting ... the Government to uphold the rule of law for the benefit of the whole community."

In his written submission to the inquiry, Mr Gleeson said it was "critically important" that those seeking advice from the Solicitor-General do so in an "uninhibited fashion and in respect of questions framed by them and not by others".

Mr Gleeson's view was supported by previous solicitors-general Dr Gavan Griffith QC and Sir Anthony Mason, a former High Court chief justice, and upheld by the majority report of the parliamentary inquiry. At a Senate estimates hearing in October, the tax office second commissioner Andrew Mills said it would have been strange if the ATO had failed to be part of the High Court action.

"In fact, the basis on which the litigation was being undertaken by that creditor relied on parts of the Tax Act, so it would seem strange for us not to be involved," he said.

Mr Mills said that when the ATO became aware of the details of the legislation, it believed it had a responsibility to see if the laws were constitutional and to "protect the position of the Commonwealth"., 25 November 2016:

WA Attorney-General Michael Mischin has denied he had a deal with his federal counterpart to keep the Commonwealth out of the state government's bid to claw back $1 billion from Alan Bond's collapsed Bell Group.

His denial comes despite WA Treasurer Mike Nahan telling parliament the day after the High Court shot down the Bell Group legislation in May that the state government thought it had a deal.

It's time for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to retire this Abbott-era attorney-general to the back bench, from where he can be constrained and so do less harm to the nation.


Financial Review, 16 June 2016:

At issue is a move by Senator Brandis – a few days before the election was called – to stop Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson, SC, from providing advice to any arm of the government without Senator Brandis giving him approval.

The advice of a solicitor-general can be crucial in politically contentious issues faced by the government – such as on asylum seeker policy. But it  also provides advice directly to a range of government entities from the office of the Governor-General to the Australian Taxation Office.

On May 4, Senator Brandis's office sent Mr Gleeson a letter outlining directions that were tabled in the Senate that day, with immediate effect, and which ruled that no one in government, including the Prime Minister, could seek the Solicitor-General's advice without getting permission from Senator Brandis.

What made the direction more disturbing for the legal bureaucracy of Canberra was that a range of officials – including the Office of Legal Services Coordination in the Attorney-General's Department -  were instructed not to consult the Solicitor-General or his office, or to notify him of the change.

The Office of Parliamentary Counsel – which has the job of putting the government's legal wishes into legislative form – raised concerns with Senator Brandis's department that neither Mr Gleeson nor his office had been consulted about the move and this might not be consistent with the Law Officers Act 1964 which sets out the Solicitor-General's responsibilities.

What was more, it emerged that officials within the Australian Government Solicitor's office had also not been consulted and had concerns about how the new directive might work in practice.

The Australian Financial Review has been briefed on an extensive record of correspondence, meeting minutes and reports about the behind-the-scenes meetings about the directive..
Senator Brandis told the parliament in the explanatory memorandum accompanying the new restrictions that Mr Gleeson had been consulted about the new guidelines.

But it has now emerged that Mr Gleeson wrote a letter to Senator Brandis on May 11 – via an email to two of Senator Brandis's advisers and to a departmental liaison officer - that was widely copied within the bureaucracy noting that he did not accept that he had been consulted, as Senator Brandis had asserted.

The letter effectively meant the Solicitor-General was warning the Attorney-General that he had misled parliament……

Legal sources say the move comes at a time when it has also become the practice that senior counsel in the Attorney-General's department has been working to an instruction that advice should only be provided to the Attorney-General's office in draft form, so it can be asserted advice has never been formally received – an extension of a tendency by Senator Brandis to intervene in the independence of agencies within his portfolio.

There are plenty of theories about why the relationship between the two men is frosty, ranging from Mr Gleeson's advice to the ATO on a High Court challenge to West Australian Government legislation, to altercations over same sex marriage and citizenship laws, to advice over the proroguing of parliament.

The High Court case involved Barnett government legislation that would have allowed a government agency to take control of the assets of the Bell Group (in liquidation).

In a submission in the case lodged on behalf of the ATO (a Bell creditor for $300 million in unpaid taxes), Mr Gleeson argued the drafter of the state's Bell Group seizure laws either forgot about federal tax law or "decided to proceed blithely in disregard to its existence".

The High Court overturned the WA legislation on May 16.

Victoria moves to protect its water, farmland and farmers against gas industry by permanently banning fracking

Monday 28 November 2016

Trump discussing U.S.-Mexico border wall and Muslim register

This is U.S. president-elect Donald J. Trump holding a transition meeting at one of his golf courses - presumably for a bit of free advertising.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

However, Buzz Feed noted on 22 November 2016 that the photo opportunity advertised something else as well – what was being held in Secretary of State for Kansas and counsel for the Immigration Law Reform Institute Kris Korbach’s left hand:

Image enlarged, rotated and cropped

According to Buzz Feed:

Kris Kobach, reportedly jockeying for a position in the Trump administration, is an immigration hardliner reportedly advising Trump and was the author of a now-defunct post-9/11 registry program, called NSEERS, for immigrants from Muslim countries…..

The first three points on the paper read:
1. Update and reintroduce the NSEERS screening and tracking system (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System) that was in place from 2002-2005. All aliens from high-risk areas are tracked.
2. Add extreme vetting questions for high-risk aliens: question them regarding support for Sharia law, jihad, equality of men and women, the United States Constitution.
3. Reduce intake of Syrian refugees to zero, using authority under 1980 Refugee Act.
The rest of the paper is either fully or partially obstructed by Kobach’s arm.
Neither Kobach or the Trump transition team immediately responded to request for comment.

There is also mention of Trump’s planned border wall between the U.S. and Mexico – with the “entire 1,989 miles planned for rapid build”.

When weird sits in the Senate

There are only four One Nation politicians in the Australian Senate and two have recently displayed their political weirdness by putting pen to paper…….

The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 November 2016:

Embattled One Nation senator Rod Culleton has been referred to Queensland police amid allegations he may have attempted to pervert the course of justice or even threatened a judicial officer.  

Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said on Tuesday she had asked police to investigate a letter allegedly sent by Senator Culleton to a Cairns magistrate asking for a matter before the court to be adjourned.

On November 15, Senator Culleton wrote to the Cairns Courthouse about a complaint from a person who he said was facing imprisonment. The letter foreshadowed a motion in the Senate to recall unnamed judges for "proven misbehaviour".
The letter noted Senator Culleton and others were watching with interest the conduct of all Australian judicial officers after he claimed to discover an error relating to the status of the High Court.…..

Lismore Echo, 21 November 2016:

ONE Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts has been personally rebuked by a senior NASA official over claims the space-agency had manipulated data. 
Mr Roberts' claims NASA had removed climate data from the 1940s in order to mask global warming in the Arctic were at the centre of the stoush. 

"You appear to hold a number of misconceptions which I am happy to clarify at this time," NASA official Gavin Schmidt told Senator Roberts in letters and emails obtained by Fairfax Media.
"The claim that GISS has 'removed the 1940s warmth' in the Arctic is not correct."

Dr Schmidt went on to explain why NASA had undertaken a process in which temperature figures were altered. 

"Homogenization of the raw temperature records is a necessary task to ensure that non-climatic influences in the analysis are minimised as much as possible," Dr Scmidt wrote.  
"These adjustments (for station moves, instrumentation changes, urban heat island effects etc.) are estimated via comparisons with neighboring stations and using relevant metadata. If we were not to adjust for these effects, we would be rightly criticized for using uncorrected data."

A spokesman for Senator Roberts said the letter was only received this weekend and would be "reviewed."

The Canberra Times

"You appear to hold a number of misconceptions which I am happy to clarify at this time," Dr Schmidt told Senator Roberts in letters and emails obtained by Fairfax Media. "The claim that GISS has 'removed the 1940s warmth' in the Arctic is not correct."

"We are certainly gratified by the attention Australia pays to our analysis, but in case you have remaining questions, I urge you to perform your own analyses."

The claim that NASA tampered with decades-old Arctic data is a favourite conspiracy theory among global warming sceptics who argue the current run-up in temperatures – especially at the North Pole – is nothing exceptional, and so action to address climate change is unnecessary.

In his letter to NASA dated November 14, Senator Roberts explained his interest in the agency's temperature calculations, saying they had "influenced" the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's warnings on global warming that in turn had informed Australian government policy. 

Senator Roberts, a former coalmining manager, rejects the idea climate change is related to carbon-dioxide levels and last week attacked the CSIRO's climate science…….

Senator Malcolm Roberts during a recent press conference, attacking CSIRO. 
Photo: Andrew Meares

"In Australia, we have considerable concern about temperature adjustments made by NASA over many years," Senator Roberts wrote, including charts from Icelandic stations at Vestmannaeyjar and Teigarhorn.

"In dropping the temperatures for the early period, the [Arctic] warmth for the 1930s and 1940s appears to have been removed," he said. "What is your specific reason for doing this?"

In an email, Truasti Jonsoon, senior meteorologist with a specialty in historical climatology at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, told Senator Roberts that the temperature "adjustments" are "quite sound".

The original data was not from NASA but the Smithsonian publication "World weather records", he said.

"During this early period there was a large daytime bias in the temperature data from Iceland as presented in this publication," which accounted for much of the "discrepancy" at Teigarhorn and less so at Vestmannaeyjar, Mr Jonsoon said. 

For the latter station, it was relocated in October 1921 to a higher elevation. "Comparative measurements at both sites have shown that the later location is about 0.7 degrees Celsius colder than the former – this relocation has to be 'adjusted' for," he said.

"I assure you that these adjustments are absolutely necessary and well founded although the finer details of the resulting series shown in your letter differ slightly from my own version," he told Senator Roberts.

Dr Schmidt said the Arctic was "not so much" the target of data critics.

"But the insistence that the data must've been inappropriately adjusted [is what the sceptics say] all the time," he told Fairfax Media. "[It's] pretty much the definition of denial." 

Dr Schmidt said he was not surprised that the query about Arctic temperatures was coming from Australia.

"I'm aware of who Malcolm Roberts is, and the only surprise is that he is in fact a senator," he said. 

Facebook, 21 November 2016:

21 November 2016 

I just made the following speech to the Senate.

Matter of Public Importance

I rise, as a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia. I am very proud to represent my home state and stand up for everyday Australians who had to endure years of green guilt.
The debate on this Matter of Public Importance is in the context of the statements made by The Honourable, The Senator, George Brandis QC, earlier today during question time when he stated, “At the heart of our national interest is our alliance with the United States”.

Mr President I say to my fellow Queenslanders, that this historic debate in this chamber marks the beginning of a Western Spring.
Today begins the process by which we expose the truth of the green-guilt-elites, those that sit in this chamber and others who stand over Australians as if they are our Lords and Barons at birth, as if the red of this chamber was infused in their blood as a right.
The world of the elites, came crashing down when Donald J Trump was elected. They knew it last Wednesday, and that night they collectedly wet their beds.

Mr Trump has previously called the alleged human-caused climate change catastrophe a “hoax”, and has thus vowed to “cancel” the USA’s participation in the Paris Agreement as well as ending Obama’s ‘war on coal’ by removing a number of climate policies and significantly ‘down-sizing’ the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

One Nation applauds President-Elect Trump’s highly moral and courageous position.

Yet many in this parliament still want to recklessly ‘plow ahead’ with ‘economy-killing’ climate policies such as ratifying the Clayton’s Paris Agreement, in stark contrast to the plans of President-Elect Trump.

If the Honourable Prime Minister would like to reconsider his Government’s stance, then my office team is in a strong position to assist given both: the presence of our team economic policy adviser (and former Trump campaign economic policy adviser) Darren Brady Nelson; and our growing relationships with senior members of the Trump presidential team like Myron Ebell (who will reportedly lead the EPA) and David Malpass (who is under consideration to lead the Treasury).

We need to use every resource at our disposal if we are to extricate ourselves from reprehensible accords such as the Paris Agreement.
It is important at this juncture to highlight the Paris Agreement, like all Australian federal, state and local climate policies over the past few decades, was not subject to a proper and independent cost benefit analysis for the benefit of the Australian people. A Paris Agreement CBA is long overdue, and preferably by the highly credible Productivity Commission (PC).

Any such CBA will need to include at least two scenarios: one based on the evidence-lite pseudo-science of the climate ‘alarmists’ (eg CSIRO, BoM, UN, etc) along with the related calls for massive government control; plus one based on the evidence-heavy science of the climate ‘realists’.

The National Interest Analysis (NIA) for the Paris Agreement states that: “The Office of Best Practice Regulation [OBPR] confirms that a Regulation Impact Statement [RIS] is not required for the ratification of the [Paris] Agreement.” This is outrageous given that the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) says: “Treaties which affect business or restrict competition are also required to be tabled with a RIS.” A RIS often includes cost benefit analysis, as it should.

My recent submission to DFAT on the Paris Agreement emphasised the crucial need for cost benefit analysis. One of the reasons was that CBA most explicitly recognises that human wants are infinite and natural resources are finite. Decisions have to be made between alternative government actions that compete for such resources. There are always choices to be made … even if the choice is to ‘do nothing’.

It is also important I draw the Senate’s attention to the wealth of experienced people President-Elect Trump has gathered around him to dismantle the elites running the global climate agenda.
The potential future head of the EPA Myron Ebell is currently the Director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Sometimes called a climate ‘denier-in-chief’, he has called for abolition of the EPA and wants to scrap the Paris Agreement, a deal Trump has vowed to withdraw from.

The potential future head of Treasury, David Malpass, is currently the founder and president of Encima Global, an economic research and consulting firm based in New York City. He served as Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary under President Ronald Reagan and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under President George W. Bush.
As may be recalled Pauline Hanson’s One Nation took to the last federal election a comprehensive environment policy. To quote from it;
“Climate change has and will continue to be used as a political agenda by politicians and self interest groups or individuals for their own gain. We cannot allow scare mongering by people such as Tim Flannery, who make outlandish statements and are not held accountable. Climate change should not be about making money for a lot of people and giving scientists money. Lets know the facts and scientific evidence to make a well informed decision as to how best to look after our environment.

Our solution is comprehensive because core problems cannot be solved by adhoc, one-off party politics. That failed Liberal-Labor-National-approach, combined with Greens grandstanding, is causing Australia’s deterioration. To tap into Australia’s wealth and to share it with all Australians we need to get to the root causes, the core problems and address them comprehensively. We need to involve people across Australia in developing solutions to restore Australia’s productive heartland and wealth for the benefit of all.
Instead of so-called 'alternative energies' that are really 'alternatives to energy', we will work to reduce energy prices, and bring back dependability and reliability through environmentally responsible, energies. Low cost energy enables efficiency and productivity that generate wealth to protect the environment.”

For the pleasure of the Senate, I highlight the following summaries provided on the environment policies of the Trump Administration.
President-Elect Trump, who has called the alleged human-caused climate change catastrophe a “hoax’, vowed to “cancel” the United States’ participation in the Paris Agreement.
Mr Trump also has committed to scrapping the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature effort to reduce production of carbon dioxide.

Mr Trump has said he will review and possibly reverse the EPA’s determination carbon dioxide is a pollutant endangering public and environmental health. Reversing the endangerment finding would end the legal justification for a range of climate regulations. In the process, it also would end radical environmental activists’, who are supported by American billionaires such as George Soros, ability to use the courts to impose climate policies on an unwilling public whose elected representatives have repeatedly rejected climate policies.

Before the election, Mr Trump said he would reverse Obama administration rules imposing undue burdens on businesses. In particular, Mr Trump said he would cut the EPA’s budget dramatically, virtually reducing it to an advisory agency, and review all EPA regulations, eliminating many of them because: “Over-regulation presents one of the greatest barriers to entry into markets and one of the greatest costs to businesses that are trying to stay competitive.”

Mr Trump says he wants to open up more federal lands to oil and gas drilling and eliminate regulations that have contributed to the decline of the coal industry.

I put it directly to the chamber Mr President, many here joined the congo line behind President Obama when his policies suited them and said we had to follow our ally’s lead. As Senator Brandis said this morning our most important strategic alliance is the United States. If it was good enough for some here to use the US when it suited them, then it is good enough now for us to follow the Trump administration.

Australia’s prosperity, and the prosperity of the world, is now reliant on our country withdrawing from the great global warming swindle. Future generations will judge us poorly if we don’t take action now to stop our de-industrialisation.

Australia was once a great manufacturer, our agricultural out-put was second to none, and budgets were once balanced. The self-serving elites tell us that for those who have missed the economic opportunities of their brave new world, ‘well all you need is more education about how great life is’.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party says to those forgotten Australians, ‘we are here for you, and we have your back’. We will fight for our greatness to return.

Sunday 27 November 2016

Australian #CensusFail 2016 reports by both the Senate and Cybersecurity Special Advisor have been released

Following #CensusFail 2016 Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered a review of events by Cybersecurity Special Advisor, Alastair MacGibbon.

In what the media is characterising as an excoriating report, a mirror was held up to the Australian Bureau of Statistics – sadly one that it is unlikely to avail itself of given its current leadership.

DPM&C, Office of the Cybersecurity Special Advisor, Review of the Events Surrounding the 2016 eCensus (October 2016):

Not just communications, but engagement…

In most respects, the ABS had a well formed and prepared communications strategy and awareness raising campaign; but it was focussed on the wrong things. The communications problem they needed to address was not a low level of awareness of the Census, but rather, the introduction of a ‘digital first’ approach and the associated barriers to participation – concerns over security and

The ABS failed to adapt its media and communications in response to the public relations storm that built up in the weeks prior to the Census regarding privacy and security in both mainstream and social media. Instead, ABS rigidly stuck to its plans, forgoing crucial opportunities to influence and drive the conversation around the Census. Processes for approval of campaigns, and changes to them, may need to be changed to promote agility.

On Census night, the ABS severely underutilised social media as a communications tool to keep the public up to date and informed of the incident. The ABS’s lack of timely and transparent
communications lost it trust because it opened the door to speculation. The continued slow updates and virtual absence from the media meant that ABS struggled to win back the trust of the public in the following days. Ministers must also be supported with clear and accurate advice, and senior executives must be equipped to understand and talk about cyber security as a matter of business

Reacting to public sentiment

…..The ABS announced public consultation regarding privacy via a media release issued on its website, with a submission period of only four weeks – 11 November to 2 December 2015 (just before Christmas).

The ABS received only three public submissions. Not only should this low response rate have indicated to the ABS that its public engagement on the key issue of privacy was inadequate, it also left a huge vacuum with regard to capturing public concerns. So the ABS missed an opportunity to identify how to evolve its communication plans developed following qualitative research in 2014 to address more up to date concerns.

As a result, the ABS was ill-equipped to manage the impact changes in the Census would have on a small but important segment of the population and their willingness to complete the eCensus online.

In January 2016, seven months out from the Census, the first articles raising concerns about privacy and security of data appeared in the media. More substantial rumblings began in March, with two main themes emerging:

• That the Census was intrusive and no longer anonymous
• The Census was vulnerable to hackers.

The ABS prides itself on the constant measuring of public sentiment and awareness using traditional survey techniques (see Figure 4, page 53). The Review concludes that these surveys contributed to a false sense of security and failure – still at time of writing – to grasp the significance and power of social media groundswells.

Major shifts in public statements regarding the security of the Census began the week prior to Census night, culminating in Senator Nick Xenophon and several other parliamentarians issuing warnings about security and privacy concerns and apparent implementation problems leading to a ‘debacle.’

Prior to the closure of the eCensus form, over 11,000 individual mentions (social and mainstream media) were published voicing concerns about the privacy and security of the eCensus. The closure of the eCensus resulted in 17,730 privacy related mentions, far outweighing mentions (1,200 total) of the technical issues experienced – i.e. what happened (see Figure 4).
This coverage created overwhelming ‘noise’ making it difficult for the ABS to remain on message.

The ABS’s planned communications were being drowned out. But rather than trying to adapt its approach to limit the impact the reporting had on the public sentiment toward the Census, the ABS stuck to planned messaging ignoring the public relations storm brewing around them.

The failings of the ABS to address issues of concern in the media extend to its use of social media. Analysis conducted on ABS Twitter and Facebook accounts shows that at no point did the ABS significantly change its planned posting schedule or content as a result of critical media reporting (shown in Figure 5, page 54) and of considerable online chatter around privacy (Figure 4). The ABS did change its social media advertising as well as engage posters directly on social media. But this was not enough.

The ABS’s virtual absence from the privacy and security debate is reflected in its social media crisis escalation matrix – the process designed to monitor, escalate  and handle social conversations. The matrix had two main flaws:

1. The ABS’s ‘qualifiers’ (thresholds that had to be met to raise concern) were too high. A ‘red level scenario,’ the highest categorisation for negative conversation, was enacted only if someone had 10,000 plus followers or a post had over 30 engagements.
2. The ABS’s response/action for a ‘red scenario’ was to hold all social media communications.

The ABS’s social media strategy was too restrictive and didn’t allow enough flexibility to respond to changing trends in media and social media. As a result, the ABS missed crucial opportunities to inform the conversation around privacy and security and the benefits of the digital first approach.

When public discourse was rising on the issues, the ABS should have been on the front foot addressing these concerns. Key spokespeople should have been conducting interviews, issuing media releases and engaging on social media to drive the conversation and shape the debate.

While the ABS did eventually start engaging in the mainstream media, it was too little, too late. And on the whole the ABS steadfastly stuck to its communications plans, allowing the media, and subsequently the public, to take the lead role. The ABS failed to insert itself in the conversation and underutilised mainstream and social media as a vehicle to shape the debate around the benefits of a digital first approach.

Recommendations for the Australian Bureau of Statistics

• The ABS should engage an independent security consultant for a wide-ranging examination of all aspects of their information collection and storage relating to Census data – from web application through to infrastructure and policies and procedures.

• The ABS should ensure future significant changes to personal information handling practices are subject to an independently-conducted privacy impact assessment and are supported by broad ranging consultation.

•  The ABS should adopt a privacy management plan to enhance its capability to identify and manage new privacy issues.

• The ABS should assess and enhance existing ABS privacy training for staff.

• The ABS should develop a specific strategy to remove the current state of vendor lock-in.

• The ABS should strengthen its approach to outsourced ICT supplier performance management to ensure greater oversight and accountability.

• The ABS should draw upon the lessons it takes from the Census experience to help to guide and to advocate for the cultural change path it is following.

• The ABS’s decision in August to assemble an independent panel to provide assurance and transparency of Census quality is supported and the resulting report should be made public.

•The ABS should implement a targeted communication strategy to address public perceptions about Census data quality.

The ABS should report monthly to their Minister outlining progress against the above recommendations

Also following #CensusFail the Australian Senate Standing Committees on Economics conducted an inquiry into the preparation, administration and management of the 2016 Census by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Its final report 2016 Census: issues of trust made these recommendations:

Recommendation 1
4.81 The committee recommends that all future Privacy Impact Assessments
relating to the census, are conducted externally with the final report published on
the ABS website 12 months in advance of the census to which it relates.

4.82 Following the release of a PIA recommending changes to future censuses,
consultation across the Australian community should be undertaken by the ABS
with the outcomes clearly documented on the ABS website no less than six
months before a future census.

Recommendation 2
4.83 The committee recommends that the ABS update its internal guidelines to
make clear that consultation requires active engagement with the nongovernment
and private sector.

Recommendation 3
5.46 The committee recommends that the ABS publicly commit to reporting
any breach of census related data to the Office of the Australian Information
Commissioner within one week of becoming aware of the breach.

Recommendation 4
6.89 The committee recommends that the Australian Government commit the
necessary funding for the 2021 census in the 2017–18 Budget.

Recommendation 5
6.90 The committee recommends that the ABS conduct open tendering
processes for future census solutions requiring the participation of the private

Recommendation 6
6.91 The committee recommends that the ABS give greater attention to
intellectual property provisions in contracts that include licensing and royalty

Recommendation 7
6.92 The committee recommends that the 2021 eCensus application be subject
to an Information Security Registered Assessors Program Assessment.

Recommendation 8
6.93 The committee recommends that the ABS take a more proactive role in
validating the resilience of the eCensus application for the 2021 census.

Recommendation 9
6.94 The committee recommends that the Department of Finance review its
ICT Investment Approval Process to ensure that projects such as the
2016 Census are covered by the cabinet two-pass process.

Recommendation 10
6.95 The committee recommends that the Australian Government provide
portfolio stability for the ABS.

Recommendation 11
6.96 The committee recommends responsible ministers seek six-monthly
briefings on the progress of census preparations. These briefings should cover
issues including, but not limited to, cyber security, system redundancy,
procurement processes and the capacity of the ABS to manage risks associated
with the census.

Recommendation 12
6.106 The committee recommends that the ABS consider establishing a
dedicated telephone assistance line for people who require special assistance in
completing the census.

Recommendation 13
7.28 The committee recommends that the maximum value of fines and any
other penalties relating to the census be explicitly stated.

Recommendation 14
7.29 The committee recommends that the Australian Bureau of Statistics
develop a clear communications strategy outlining the outcomes for
non-compliance with the census, including resolution processes and the value of
possible penalties.

Recommendation 15
7.57 The committee recommends that the Australian Government provide
sufficient funding for the ABS to undertake its legislated functions to a continued
high standard.

Recommendation 16
7.58 The committee recommends that the responsible minister act as a matter
of urgency to assist the ABS in filling senior positions left vacant for greater than
6 months.