Showing posts with label Australian politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australian politics. Show all posts

Friday, 24 April 2020

The fact that Minister for Home Affairs & Liberal MP for Dickson Peter Dutton is always lurking in the shadows during national crises continues to be a worry

"I’m going to keep going until I get the numbers. I’m not stopping" [Minister for Home Affairs & Liberal MP for Dickson Peter Dutton on the subject of his desire to be Australian prime minister, quoted in "The Bigger Picture", April 2020]

It has become notable that since September-August 2018 when Peter Dutton's bid to topple then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull succeeded but his bid to become Australian prime minister failed - primarily because he and Turnbull were both outfoxed by a duplicitous Scott Morrison - Dutton disappears into the shadows during the worst phases of national crises or major political scandal.

One suspects he does so as he doesn't want voters to negatively associate him with either crises or scandal, because he hasn't given up his ambition to be prime minister after the next federal election.

As Dutton's worldview is as much a threat to democratic processes as is the worldview of current prime minister Scott Morrison, voters would do well to keep in mind what Dutton would like to impose on Australian society.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers, 20 April 2020:

Peter Dutton Proposes Prison for Refusing to Provide Passwords

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has been absent from the media spotlight in recent times, ever since he contracted coronavirus.

And many are asking where the man at the helm of curtailing civil liberties on a federal level has been in the midst of the current pandemic.

The man at the helm of the surveillance state

Mr Dutton has been credited with proposing a wide range of laws designed to increase the power of authorities at the expense of individual liberties.

Perhaps most recently, Mr Dutton proposed laws which would result in prison time for those who fail or refuse to hand over their passwords or PINs when requested to do so by authorities.

Peter Dutton has said the laws are needed to help police catch criminals who are hiding behind encryption technology – a line we have heard many times before as the country’s law makers put in place draconian measures to grant police and other authorities surveillance powers that encroach upon our privacy.

Under the proposals, which is currently on hold, people who are not even suspected of a crime, could face a fine of up to $50,000 and up to five years’ imprisonment for declining to provide a password to their smartphone, computer or other electronic devices.

Furthermore, anyone (an IT professional, for example) who refuses to help the authorities crack a computer system when ordered will face up to five years in prison. If the crime being investigated is terrorism-related then the penalty for non-compliance increases to 10 years in prison and/or a $126,000 fine.

Tech companies who refuse to assist authorities to crack encryption when asked to do so, will face up to $10 million in fines. What’s more, if any employee of the company tells anyone else they have been told to do this, they will face up to five years in gaol.

Under the legislation, foreign countries can also ask Australia’s Attorney General for police to access data in your computer to help them investigate law-breaking overseas.

Australia’s hyper-legislative response to September 11

Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, the Australian parliament has responded to the threat of terrorism here and overseas by enacting more than 80 new laws and amending existing laws – many of them with wide-reaching consequences, such as the terrorism laws used to conduct raids on journalist Annika Smethurst’s home and the ABC’s head offices, as well as charge former military lawyer and whistleblower David Mc Bride with offences that could see him spending the rest of his life in gaol.

Controversial metadata laws too, introduced in 2015, seriously impact our personal privacy requiring telecommunications companies to retain metadata including information on who you call or text, where you make calls from, and who you send emails to.

The problem is that once these kinds of extraordinarily heavy-handed powers are legislated, they are very seldom retracted or rescinded. In many cases, over time, they are expanded. Australia’s oversight body the Australian Law Reform Commission can review laws that are already in place, but it has limited powers which only enable the commission to make recommendations for change, not to actually change the laws themselves.

Police already have the power to seize a phone or laptop if you have been arrested.

Border Force has even more extensive seize and search powers.

The extensive powers of border force

In 2018, Border Force made headlines after intercepting an British-Australian citizen travelling through Sydney airport seizing his devices.

Nathan Hague, a software developer was not told what would be done with his devices, why they were being inspected or whether his digital data was being copied and stored. He believes his laptop password was cracked.

Australian Border Forces have extensive powers to search people’s baggage at Australian airports. These are contained in section 186 of Customs Act 1901 (Cth). These include opening baggage, reading documents, and using an X-ray or detection dog to search baggage.

The Customs Act allows officers to retain an electronic device for up to 14 days if there is no content on the device which renders it subject to seizure. And if it is subject to seizure, the device may be withheld for a longer period.

ABF officers have the power to copy a document if they’re satisfied it may contain information relevant to prohibited goods, to certain security matters or an offence against the Customs Act. A document includes information on phones, SIM cards, laptops, recording devices and computers.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Monday, 23 March 2020

According to Roy Morgan Research Prime Minister Scott Morrison is distrusted by a majority of the Australian public - along with US President Donald Trump, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and disgraced former deputy-prime minister Barnaby Joyce

Roy Morgan Research, Finding No. 8333 Topic: Public Opinion Press ReleaseSpecial Poll Country: Australia New Zealand United States, 19 March 2020:

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern has highest ‘Net Trust Score’ of all political leaders while Australian PM Scott Morrison has a ‘Net Distrust Score’ to overcome

A special Roy Morgan survey on ‘Trust’ and ‘Distrust’ of government leaders shows New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern scores the highest ‘Net Trust Score’ of all – meaning the ‘Trust’ felt toward the New Zealand leader far outweighs the ‘Distrust’ – according to a special Roy Morgan Snap SMS Survey of 974 Australians aged 14+ conducted over the last two days.

People surveyed in Australia were asked ‘Which government leaders do you trust. List as many as you can think of?’ and also ‘Which government leaders do you distrust. List as many as you can think of?’ By subtracting distrust from trust we arrive at a Net Trust Score (if trust outweighs distrust) or Net Distrust Score (if distrust outweighs trust).

Women dominate the Net Trust Scores filling four out of the top five positions. Other leaders to score highly on Net Trust include Opposition Leader in the Senate Penny Wong, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and former ALP Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek.

Top 10 Political Leaders by Net Trust Score

Source: Roy Morgan Snap SMS survey conducted on March 18-19, 2020.
Base: Australians aged 14+. n=974.

Scott Morrison has a ‘Net Distrust Score’ alongside colleague Peter Dutton

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is mentioned as a ‘Trusted’ leader by more Australians than any other. However, unfortunately for Morrison, there are far more Australians that have a ‘Distrust’ of the Prime Minister than ‘Trust’ him – leaving the Prime Minister with a ‘Net Distrust Score’

Other prominent political leaders that have ‘Net Distrust Scores’ include Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, US President Donald Trump and former National Party Leader Barnaby Joyce.

Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine says the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s trust has been built on taking decisive actions in many challenging situations since becoming Prime Minister:

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has demonstrated impressive leadership since taking New Zealand’s top job in responding with empathy to the Christchurch mosque shootings a year ago and the tragedy caused by the eruption of White Island last year. Most recently, Ardern’s decisive leadership was demonstrated with New Zealand becoming the first country to impose harsh restriction on all foreign nationals from entering the country in response to the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

In contrast our own Prime Minister Scott Morrison faced a ‘wall of criticism’ for his handling of the Summer bushfire crisis and this has continued for many with his handling of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Given the current uncertainties, it is important Australians trust our Prime Minister. Although the results show Morrison is trusted by a wide variety of Australians there are far more that distrust the PM meaning he has a significant ‘Net Distrust Score’.

One of the most striking results of this unprompted research assessing opinions of political leaders is the leading performance of many of Australia’s female politicians. As well as New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern on top, Opposition Leader in the Senate Penny Wong, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and former ALP Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek are all in the top five. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard is also not far behind in eighth position despite living in the United Kingdom for the past few years.

Additional detail on the reasons Australians have given for ‘Trusting’ and also ‘Distrusting’ this diverse range of political leaders will be released in coming days.”

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Quote of the Week

"If the battle cry of our government’s response to the global financial crisis was “go early, go hard, go households”, this government’s approach to the current crisis seems to be “go late, go half-measures, and go ... well ... go to Hillsong”." [Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, writing in The Guardian, 16 March 2020]

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Tweets of the Week - #sportsrorts edition

In which the answer to Liberal Senator for Tasmania Eric Abetz's question reveals that #sportsrorts was a fact.

In which Australian Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison cuts and runs after caught misrepresenting the Auditor-General's report concerning #sportrorts

Friday, 7 February 2020

Vast amounts of money potentially influencing the May 2019 Australian federal election will not be disclosed to the public

CPI, Briefing Paper, 2 February 2020

The Centre for Public Integrity, media release, 3 February 2020:

A new briefing paper released by The Centre for Public Integrity today shows that vast amounts of money potentially influencing last year’s federal election will not be disclosed to the public.

Annual returns released on Monday by the Australian Electoral Commission will only cover some donations to political parties and other participants.

The paper shows that over $1 billion, or 36% of party income, has not been disclosed since 1999.

Donations under $14,000 will not be disclosed, much income from associated entities, party fundraising events, membership fees is likely to be hidden,” said political finance expert and director of The Centre for Public Integrity Professor Joo Cheong Tham.

Campaign spending will not be made public. Voters will not know who spent what in key states or marginal electorates.”

Any breaches of disclosure regulations are unlikely to be investigated, as the AEC lacks the resources and there is no National Integrity Commission.’

We need urgent reform of our disclosure system so that donations over $1000 are disclosed in real time, spending is made public, and any breaches are properly investigated by a National Integrity Commission,” concluded Professor Tham.

Read the briefing paper here.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Political Donations 101: cause and effect 2019-2020

THE CAUSE: Reliance on political donations

Individuals and corporations making large or regular political donations are rarely giving money for philanthropic reasons - they usually want something in return.

Sometimes it is access to a prime minister or premier, sometimes access to a particular minister and sometimes it is a barely concealed bribe in order that the donor gets a specific outcome from a particular government.

The Guardian, 3 February 2020:

The Liberal party received $4.1m from a single donor before the 2019 election, one of the largest amounts in political history, dwarfing former leader Malcolm Turnbull’s $1.75m gift before the 2016 election.

The donations, revealed in Australian Electoral Commission disclosures published on Monday, are second only to the $83.3m donated by Mineralogy Pty Ltd to Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.

Both major parties also took significant sums of money from the fossil fuel industry, including multinational giant Woodside, something environmentalists say explains government inaction in the “face of a rolling national emergency driven by climate change”.

The $4.1m donated to the federal Liberal party and its state branches was given in multiple instalments by Sugolena Pty Ltd, a company linked to philanthropist Isaac Wakil, who made his fortune in the clothing industry and invested heavily in property, with his wife Susan, around the Sydney suburb of Pyrmont…..

The Liberals declared $22.6m in donations Labor $18.2m. Total receipts, which include all donations regardless of the $13,800 reporting threshold, other payments, returns from financial investments and loans, amounted to $165m for the Liberals and $126m for Labor.

Australia’s weak donation disclosure system continues to mask a huge chunk of political financing. 

Analysis by the Centre for Public Integrity shows that $1bn in party income has not been disclosed between 1999 and the last reporting year, almost 36% of total party financing.

But the disclosures that have been made continue to show the significant influence of the fossil fuel industry in Australian democracy. Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy, which gave $83,681,442 to Palmer’s United Australia Party, was by far the single biggest fossil fuel donor.

An analysis by the Australian Conservation Foundation found a further $1.89m in fossil fuel donations to Australian political parties.

This data explains why even in the face of a rolling national emergency driven by climate change and community demands for change, the government continues to defend and promote the industries that are the root cause of the problem,” ACF’s economy and democracy program manager Matt Rose said.

Serious donations reform is needed now to make sure our political system works for the benefit of all Australian, not just those with the biggest wallets.”

The biggest fossil fuel donor to the major parties was Woodside, Australia’s biggest LNG exporter. It gave $135,400 to Labor, $136,750 to the Liberal Party and $11,190 to the Nationals. The gas industry lobby, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), was also a significant donor. [APPEA donated a combined total of $24,990 to the federal Liberal and Nationals parties]

Prime minister Scott Morrison recently identified gas as a key “transition” fuel for Australia’s economy, saying “we need to get the gas from under our feet”. 

He also recently struck a a $2bn deal with the New South Wales government to increase gas supply and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector…..

The federal Liberal party also declared two donations from Adani Mining Pty Ltd totalling $50,000….. [the Australian Electoral Commission identified a combined total of $97,300 as donations directly from Adani Mining Pty Ltd to the federal Liberal and Nationals parties]

Carmichael Rail Network, another wholly-owned subsidiary of Adani Australia, gave $50,000 to the federal Liberal party and $100,000 to the Nationals….. [my red annotations]

THE EFFECT: Requirement to fulfil the terms of the unwritten contract between a political party and its donors

Within the 8 months following the May 2019 federal election the Morrison Government acted to benefit certain of its donors in the gas industry sector.

Santos Limited which had donated a combined total of $42,723 to federal Liberal and Nationals coffers in 2017-18 went on to donate another $78,854 in 2018-19, with this result......

According to Lock The Gate Alliance on 31 January 2020:

The ‘energy deal’ announced today between NSW and Federal Governments looks designed to unleash coal seam gas drilling in north-west NSW, threatening drought-affected farmers and allowing Santos to drain 37 billion litres of groundwater.

Crucially, it will do little to bring down greenhouse gas emissions due to its reliance on dirty, polluting unconventional gas.

Media reports indicate the NSW Government has been compelled by the Commonwealth to make a commitment to supply 70PJ of gas for the east coast market in exchange for up to $2 billion in Federal funding for renewable energy and unquantified reduction incentives.

The volume of gas mentioned in the deal is similar to the amount Santos expects to produce at its proposed water-hungry Narrabri coal seam gasfield.

To facilitate the creation of one or more gasfields in north-west New South Wales the Berejiklian Coalition Government held a second hearing into the NSW Chief Scientist’s recommendations on coal seam gas in NSW on 4 February 2020.

As the Berejiklian Government failed to act on the Chief Scientist's original recommendations, this second hearing was a cause for concern......

Lock The Gate Alliance, 3 February 2020:

CSG hearing round 2 must deliver more than just hot air

The holding of a second hearing into the NSW Chief Scientist’s recommendations on coal seam gas in NSW is evidence the Berejiklian Government is not prepared to deal with the repercussions of the destructive industry, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.

The hearing, to be held tomorrow, is only happening because the Government was unable to properly answer questions about CSG at the original hearing, held in December last year.

Lock the Gate NSW coordinator Georgina Woods said it was even more crucial than ever now for the Government to answer questions about its forgotten promises on coal seam gas, given the state and federal governments look poised to sacrifice the north west following last week’s energy deal announcement.

It was deeply troubling to watch government representatives scratch their heads when asked basic questions about their oversight of this damaging industry at the last hearing. It demonstrated an alarming lack of attention to the serious risk coal seam gas poses to groundwater in North West NSW,” Ms Woods said.

Last week’s energy deal with Canberra has raised the very real risk that state and federal governments will run roughshod over the facts and heap political pressure on planning authorities to approve Santos’ destructive Narrabri coal seam gas proposal.

This inquiry has shown how unready and unaware the Government is for the environmental, social and economic damage that will inflict.

There is still time to stop Santos’ Narrabri gas project from puncturing holes in a recharge aquifer of the Great Artesian Basin, one of western New South Wales’ most precious groundwater resources. There is still time to make this important area a no-go zone for coal seam gas and safeguard the water resources of north west New South Wales.”

Ms Woods said it was clear from the last hearing that major recommendations made by the Chief Scientist had not been implemented.

The biggest gaps include failure to provide a three-tiered environmental insurance scheme, failure to establish a standing expert committee, and failure to develop systems that can detect cumulative impacts of the industry on precious water resources,” she said.

There are 11 expired and unused legacy coal seam gas licences languishing over the farmland, towns, and precious water resources of the drought-stricken north west that have never been through the Government’s new system for assessing areas for gas exploration.

The NSW Government is leaving farming communities in the north west exposed to unforeseen and irreversible loss or contamination of water resources and other environmental and health impacts from the CSG industry.

We need a reset from the Government that prioritises water security, people, and the needs of future generations and that means stopping the Narrabri gasfield.”

Brisbane Times reported on 3 February 2020 concerning the Adani Group's strategically timed donations:

On April 5, $12,500 was donated to the Liberal Party; that was four days before then-Environment Minister Melissa Price signed off on the groundwater management plans for Adani's central Queensland mine. 

Another $100,000 was donated to both parties in the month after Ms Price gave final federal approvals to the mine.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Quotes of the Week

"The big issues for anyone interested in a future on this continent – energy, water and climate – remained unaddressed. Mining and Murdoch maintained their vice-like grip on Australian politics and the minds of the masses. The rich got richer, and the poor got homeless.”  [Journalist David Lowe writing in Echo NetDaily, 17 January 2020]

"Right now the government is indulging in the equivalent of responding to polio by promising to invest in more iron lungs. And bizarrely, it is getting credit for it. Adaptation is not mitigation." [Journalist Greg Jericho writing in The Guardian, 19 January 2020]