Showing posts with label right wing politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label right wing politics. Show all posts

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Morrison's refusal to release the written finding of the Gaetjens investigation into the allocation of Community Sport Infrastructure Grants during the 2019 federal election campaign is raising eyebrows


The handling of the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program during the 2019 federal election campaign - otherwise know as SportsRorts scandal - has already taken the scalp of former Agriculture Minister & Nationals Senator for Victoria, Bridget McKenzie, after poor personal polling on 12 January  and growing public anger on the release of the Auditor General's adverse report of 15 January 2020 caused Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to order an internal investigation into this $100 million dollar scheme.

Ms. McKenzie has been made Leader of the Nationals in the Senate as compensation for the fact that she was forced to resign in an effort to put a lid on the whole affair.

Nevertheless disquiet remains after Morrison refused to release the written finding of the Gaetjens investigation.......

Former head of the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Finance, and Employment and Industrial Relations and currently Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, Michael Keating, writing in Crikey.com.au on 11 February 2020:

In my view the Gaetjens’ report reflects poorly on its author.

It would seem on the evidence that Gaetjens has produced a report whose only purpose was to get the government off a political hook.

One suspects that finding McKenzie guilty on the grounds of political bias in her administration of these grants would have implicated other ministers and/or their offices, and therefore she was exonerated on this charge.

However, as head of the public service, Gaetjen’s first duty is to uphold its values and integrity. And as set out in its enabling legislation, the Australian Public Service is meant to be apolitical, serving not only the government but also parliament and the Australian public.

Gaetjens should be setting an example for the rest of the APS — indeed the head of any organisation has their greatest impact on its culture.

My other concern about this sports rorts saga is what it tells us about the prime minister’s attitude to the public service.

As the High Court has found: “the maintenance and protection of an apolitical and professional public service is a significant purpose consistent with the system of representative and responsible government mandated by the constitution”.

But the Gaetjens’ report reinforces doubts about whether Morrison accepts the independence and impartiality of the APS.

Furthermore, this report comes on the back of the Morrison government’s rejection of all the recommendations from the independent ThodeyReview of the APS which would have strengthened that independence, and therefore reinforces that concern.

On 5 February 2020 the Senate resolved to establish a Select Committee on Administration of Sports Grants to inquire into and report on the administration and award of funding under the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program.

The first and, perhaps the only, hearing day is today Thursday 13 February 2020 -  beginning at 4.30pm when the Auditor General Grant Hehir will be giving evidence.

The closing date for submissions is 21 February 2020 and the committee is to present its final report on or before 24 March 2020.
BACKGROUND
Terms of Reference 

1. That a select committee, to be known as the Select Committee on Administration of Sports Grants, be established to inquire into and report on the administration and award of funding under the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program, with particular reference to: 
a) program design and guidelines; 
b) requirements placed on applicants for funding; 
c) management and assessment processes; 
d) adherence to published assessment processes and program criteria; 
e) the role of the offices of the Minister, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, and any external parties, in determining which grants would be awarded and who would announce the successful grants; and 
f) any related programs or matters. 

2. That the committee present its final report on or before Tuesday 24 March 2020. 

3. That the committee consist of 5 senators, as follows: 
a) 2 nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate; 
b) 2 nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate; and 
c)1 nominated by the Leader of the Australian Greens. 

4. That: 
a) participating members may be appointed to the committee on the nomination of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate or any minority party or independent senator; and b) participating members may participate in hearings of evidence and deliberations of the committee, and have all the rights of members of the committee, but may not vote on any questions before the committee. 
c) a participating member shall be taken to be a member of a committee for the purpose of forming a quorum of the committee if a majority of members of the committee is not present. 

5. That the committee may proceed to the dispatch of business notwithstanding that not all members have been duly nominated and appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy. 

6. That the committee elect as chair one of the members nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and as deputy chair the member nominated by the Leader of the Australian Greens. 

7. That the deputy chair shall act as chair when the chair is absent from a meeting of the committee or the position of chair is temporarily vacant. 

8. That, in the event of an equality of voting, the chair, or the deputy chair when acting as chair, have a casting vote. 

9. That the committee have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of 3 or more of its members, and to refer to any such subcommittee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to consider. 

10. That the committee and any subcommittee have power to send for and examine persons and documents, to move from place to place, to sit in public or in private, notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament or dissolution of the House of Representatives, and have leave to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken and such interim recommendations as it may deem fit. 

11. That the committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and be empowered to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the committee with the approval of the President. 

12. That the committee be empowered to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it, and a daily Hansard be published of such proceedings as take place in public. 

The resolution establishing the committee is available in the Journals of the Senate No. 37 - Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), Award of Funding under the Community Sport Infrastructure Program, Report NO. 23 OF 2019–20, which found:
  • The award of grant funding was not informed by an appropriate assessment process and sound advice.
  • The successful applications were not those that had been assessed as the most meritorious in terms of the published program guidelines..... 
  • There was evidence of distribution bias in the award of grant funding. Overall statistics indicate that the award of funding was consistent with the population of eligible applications received by state/territory, but was not consistent with the assessed merit of applications. The award of funding reflected the approach documented by the Minister’s Office of focusing on ‘marginal’ electorates held by the Coalition as well as those electorates held by other parties or independent members that were to be ‘targeted’ by the Coalition at the 2019 Election. Applications from projects located in those electorates were more successful in being awarded funding than if funding was allocated on the basis of merit assessed against the published program guidelines.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison & his merry band of cost cutters decided to save $9.2 million a year by cutting off CapTel phones for the profoundly deaf. Luckily this new front in Morrison's ongoing war on the poor & vulnerable was something of a fizzer


"The Commonwealth Government has awarded American company, Concentrix Services a contract to deliver the National Relay Service (NRS). One of the first things Concentrix is contracted to do is to shut down the CapTel handset service on 1 February 2020." [Deaf Forum of Australia, July 2019]

ABC News, 31 January 2020: 

Thousands of hearing-impaired Australians could face a return to 1980s technology from today after the Federal Government cancelled a deal to support text-captioning telephones. 

Phones with CapTel captioning display words on a large screen in near real time, so deaf and hearing-impaired users can make calls and see the responses. 

But in a decision criticised by disability advocates, the phones will not work as of February 1, after the Department of Communications declined to renew the service provider's contract with the National Relay Service (NRS).  
A new company won the contract. [Concentrix Services Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of the SYNNEX Corporation]

It will force users to take up alternative options, with many choosing to revert back to what are known as TTY teletypewriter phones — technology first introduced in the 1980s. 

For Christine O'Reilly, the CapTel phone changed her life. Ms O'Reilly's hearing has been deteriorating since childhood and now at 62, she is profoundly hearing impaired. 

"When I received the CapTel I was so overjoyed I burst into tears," she said..... 

Critics say the decision has come down to one thing: money. 

The cost of the NRS has blown out in recent years, from $26.3 million in 2015-16, to $31.2 million in 2017-18...... 

The new NRS contract awarded last June provides for $22 million per year over three years. 

Until recently there were more than 3,500 CapTel handsets distributed across Australia. The Department of Communications estimates about 1,000 are still active. 

"I certainly acknowledge any transition of this kind is challenging, particularly for older Australians who may not be as familiar with technology," 

Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said. "We've retained a team of trainers who've been going to meet individually with CapTel users to brief them on their alternatives." .....

It is expected many users will switch to TTY teletypewriter phones, which have a small two-line screen for text above the number pad. 

"We're having to go backwards in time, and everyone else can get the latest iPhone," said Dr Alex Harrison, a profoundly deaf veterinarian in Adelaide. 

"[I feel] enormously frustrated and discriminated against," he said. 

Dr Harrison said the CapTel phone had revolutionised his practice, allowing him to easily make up to 10 calls a day. 

Making a call on a TTY phone is much more complicated. "If I want to make a phone call on the TTY, I have to call a 133 number first … and they'll put me through to an operator," he explained. 

Once you do that, you may be put on hold or told you are in a queue to make a call. 

On January 7, the department acknowledged wait times to get through were unacceptable. 

"We understand and acknowledge community disappointment about these issues and can assure you that we are focused on resolving these concerns as a priority," it said. 

To address the wait times, the relay service provider Concentrix is currently hiring and training additional staff. 

New staff took their first calls just prior to Christmas and more staff will commence during the rest of January. 

Other options offered by the Department of Communications are internet-based call captioning and apps designed to work on mobile phones and tablets. 

But users said many of the online options were much slower and less user-friendly, requiring them to fill in multiple fields just to initiate a phone call. 

"The other options are far too slow. They're primitive," Ms O'Reilly said. 

 And advocates point out the average age of CapTel phone users is more than 80. 

"For an elderly person who's not tech savvy, [these options] can be very intimidating, and often they can't do it. Some of these people are 80 or 90, and they really struggle with that," Dr Harrison said..... [my annotation in red]

"It is indeed a big shock to many Australians, and myself, who rely and need the Captel handset. It seems to me that this section of people with a hearing loss have been sacrificed in a big way so that the TTY can be ‘re-introduced’ and then plunge those who went deaf later in life and whom can speak, right back in the dark ages. It is also a direct insult to the intelligence of the people who worked long and hard to get Captel up and running in Australia. Many of our members have spoken of their dismay and disgust, particularly being isolated and the loss of their independence. In the long run, this move will cost the Australian government much more than it does now." [Deaf Forum of Australia, July 2019]


Thankfully, Captioned Telephone International, the company whose contact the Morrison Government refused to renew and, its president Rob Engelke, have bigger, kinder hearts than either Prime Minister Scott Morrison or Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher, as Mr. Engelke has committed the company to maintaining the CapTel system for those Australians who would otherwise lose their handsets by arranging for the routing of all calls through the company's U.S. captioning centres, while it investigates long-term options based in Australia.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Just in time for Christmas the Morrison Government's risible greenhouse gas emission projections up to 2030 have been released


Well the federal parliament closed its doors for the year in early December so there is going to be no questioning of the Morrison Government on the floor of the House of Representatives until 4 February 2020.

It follows that it was time to release some of the government untruths packaged between paper covers or boxed in a PDF - just in time for Christmas.

On the first Tuesday of December the Morrison Government released
Australia’s emissions projections 2019, accompanied by a misleading fanfare from the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction & Liberal MP for Hume, Angus Taylor.

In part this emissions fairytale tells us that:

Australia’s 2030 target (26–28 per cent below 2005 levels) 

• Emissions in 2030 are projected to be 511 Mt CO2 -e, 52 Mt CO2 -e lower than the 2018 estimate for 2030 of 563 Mt CO2 -e. 

• To achieve Australia’s 2030 target of 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels, emissions reductions of 395 to 462 Mt CO2 -e between 2021 and 2030 are required. When overachievement of 411 Mt CO2 -e from previous targets is included, Australia will overachieve by 16 Mt CO2 -e (26 per cent reduction) and will require 51 Mt CO2 -e of cumulative emissions reduction between 2021 and 2030 to meet the 28 per cent reduction target. 

• Compared to the 2018 projections, the downward revision in the 2019 projections reflects: 

– the inclusion of the Climate Solutions Fund which will reduce emissions by 103 Mt CO2 -e, particularly in the Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector;

 – the inclusion of other measures in the Climate Solutions Package including energy efficiency measures in the electricity and direct combustion sectors; 

– stronger renewables deployment – due to increased uptake of small and mid-scale solar photovoltaics (PV) projected by the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) and Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), and the inclusion of 50 per cent renewable energy targets in Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory; and 

– updated forecasts of electricity demand.


Sounds good until you look at the numbers.

In the original Kyoto Agreement Australia's baseline for accounting greenhouse gas emissions was 1990 and total national greenhouse gas emissions for that year were recorded as 610MT CO2-e.

Australia came away unhappy with the conference outcome, so bitched and griped at every turn until the baseline was moved, eventually being extended out to 2005.

In 2005 Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions were 611MT CO2-e if land use is included. The total changes to 522MT CO2-e if land use is excluded. 

The predictions for 2030 in the recent emissions projections are 511MT CO2-e land use included and 521MT CO2-e land use excluded.

There is a 100 point drop in the 2030 projection including land use and a 1 point drop with land use excluded.

It's  still a reduction right? Even if the Morrison Government got there by using an accounting trick?

Well no. Because - even with the carryover 'carbon credits' accounting trick which allows the the Morrison Government to subtract a total of 411MT CO-e from greenhouse gas emissions across selected annual totals - Australia is not meeting the undertakings made to the international community at the U.N. 2015 Paris climate change conference (COP 21).

In fact we have spent the six years between 2013 (when emissions total was 530
MT CO2-e) and 2019 (when emissions total was 532MT CO2-e) just treading water, while the days and nights became hotter, our rivers ran dry and our forests burned. 

Next year emissions are expected to rise again to what they were in 2014, 534MT CO2-e.

In Paris Australia agreed to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030.

That would mean that Australia's emissions target in 2030 should be somewhere between 440MT CO2-e and 450MT CO2-e.

There is a shortfall in meeting those targets.

With land use included the target shortfall in projections is between est. 59MT CO2-e and 71MT CO2-e. With land use excluded the shortfall is between est. 69MT CO2-e and 81MT CO2-e.

That is a lot of mega tonnes. Especially if we were to correct the Morrison Govenment's creative accounting and remove this carryover credits from the equation.

Then the 2030 emissions reduction target shortfall would probably grow by arround est. 80-84 per cent.


Angus Taylor attended the 2-13 December 2019 UN Madrid Climate Change Conference (COP25) armed with his copy of that creative government accounting - probably believing that representatives of other nations would find his spiel believable. Though I rather suspect whenever he was at the other end of the room a number would have had their heads together quietly laughing at him. 

Notes:

Emissions are recorded as totalling 532MT CO2-e In 2018 and 2019. However using Morrison & Co's accounting trick it is reduced to a total of 328MT CO2-e in 2018 and -6MT CO2-e in 2019. See http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/4aa038fc-b9ee-4694-99d0-c5346afb5bfb/files/aust-emissions-projects-chart-data-2019.xlsx.

All data the Australia's emissions projections 2019 relies on can be found at -
http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/publications/emissions-projections-2019.

If readers want emissions totals & projections per year from 1990 to 2030 in a more digestible form, there is currently an interactive graph at -
https://www.theguardian.com/business/grogonomics/2019/dec/10/the-coalition-isnt-being-honest-about-the-climate-crisis-but-neither-is-labor.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Morrison Government's union busting 'Ensuring Integrity Bill' defeated in the Senate


Prime Minister Scott Morrison's pride and joy, the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019, intended to weaken and perhaps even destroy registered unions in Australia was negatived in Committee of the Whole by the Senate.

The vote was tied at 34-all, with One Nation's two senators along with Senator Jacqui Lambie voting with the Greens and Labor.

It took 147 days for political commonsense to prevail but on 28 November 2019 the Senate politely told the prime minister and his hard right cronies where to go.

Another bill Morrison is reportedly hoping to pass before the parliamentary Christmas break is the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019 which removes provisions for asylum seeker detainee medical transfers to Australia from Manus Island and Nauru ('medevac').

BACKGROUND

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), media release, 26 November 2019:

In a blow to the Morrison Government’s arguments for the Ensuring Integrity Bill currently before the senate the Federal Court has ruled the union regulator, the Register Organisations Commission (ROC) investigation into the AWU was invalid. 

Justice Bromberg has ruled that the ROC did not have grounds to order an AFP raid on the offices of the AWU and has ordered the return of the documents that were seized on behalf of the regulator in their first act after being established by the Liberal Government in 2017. 

The decision comes as the Morrison Government attempts to pass the Ensuring Integrity Bill in the Senate which would give the ROC the extreme power to determine which unions are deregistered and which officials are disqualified under the dangerous and hypocritical new union-busting law. 

Under the EI Bill the ROC would have the power to begin deregistration proceedings against a union which had made a handful of paperwork mistakes over a period of 10 years. 

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil: 

“The Morrison government has been telling Senators that the ROC is an impartial body which can administer the extraordinary powers granted under EI. The Federal Court has just found it conducted an illegal raid on a union office. 

“Giving union busters more power to drag unions into courts over minor paperwork breaches, some that would only cost a company an $80 fine, Will cost members and the taxpayer millions in legal fees. This is before accounting for the cost of not being able to campaign for higher wages, better working conditions and safer workplaces. 

“To defend themselves from the ROC’s harrassment the AWU was forced to expending significant resources over two years to get justice. If the Ensuring Integrity Bill passes, all unions could face this harrassment over paperwork breaches. 

“Questions also need to be asked of the ROC who is continuing to waste tax payer’s money to challenge this finding. “This ruling gives the crossbench senators a stark example of how the Morrison government targets unions and will stop at nothing to try and bust unions. Ensuring Integrity will become another tool for union busters and should be rejected. 

“The Federal Court decision is a vindication for the AWU but also a warning for the Senate crossbench who weighing amendments which would give this discredited body even more power.”

BACKGROUND

On 20 October 2017, Mr Chris Enright, the Executive Director of the Registered Organisation Commission (ROC) and a delegate of the Commissioner decided to conduct an investigation.


Judgment in Australian Workers’ Union v Registered Organisations Commissioner (No 9) [2019] FCA 1671 was delivered on 11 October 2019. The judgment concluded that; "the decision to conduct an investigation as to whether ss 285(1), 286(1) and 287(1) of the RO Act had been contravened was affected by jurisdictional error and is invalid."

Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019 was introduced by the Morrison Coaltion Government in July 2019 and was currently before the Senate for the second reading debate when the ACTU penned the aforementioned media release.

*Images of ROC document come from the published Federal Court judgment.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019  is apparently scheduled for a second reading before 5 December 2019.

This bill removes provisions in Schedule 6 of the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Act 2019These provisions (commonly referred to as the medical transfer, or medevac, provisions) established a framework for the transfer of transitory persons from regional processing countries to Australia for the purpose of medical treatment or assessment. The Bill also amends the Migration Act to allow for the removal of people brought to Australia under the medical transfer provisions back to a regional processing country once they no longer need to be in Australia.

On 27 November 2019 a nonconforming petition was tabled in the Senate asking for medevac provisions to be saved. It contains 51,299 signatures.

On the same day Professor David Isaacs, Clinical Professor, Paediatrics & Child Health, Fellow, Royal Australasian College of Physicians was joined by doctors in Canberra urging senators to reject the medevac repeal bill. Professor Isaacs carried an open letter signed by 5,040 doctors urging Senator Jacqui Lambie to save medevac.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Tweet of the week


Sunday, 3 November 2019

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison brings shame on all of us who arrived in the country from 1778 onwards


And Jenna Price* expresses that shame for us all......

The Canberra Times, 25 October 2019:

It's the only night legendary Australian band the Go-Betweens are playing in Sydney and the audience is keyed up. A woman gives a very moving Acknowledgment of Country - you know, the ones which are more than just the nod to elders past, present and emerging. The ones which talk about rivers and sky, kin and skin. It's Wiradjuri woman Yvonne Weldon, chair of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, whose ability to hold an audience is epic.


Midway, a bloke in the audience starts heckling. Get a move on, he says, and worse.

"I paused. And then I said, 'This is exactly for you, we are the oldest living cultures of the world'," Weldon remembers.

There was a moment of silence before people started telling him to shush - but in stronger language. Weldon continued. Her aim, she says, was to address a big-mouthed, small-minded person.

Now the Prime Minister is doing his own interrupting, colonising these acknowledgments with his own version. Last Saturday, at a Liberal function at Parliament House, he acknowledged the Ngunnawal people. And then he said: "Can I also acknowledge, as is my habit, anyone who is serving in our defence forces and certainly those who are veterans, and simply say on behalf of a very grateful nation, thank you for your service."

It's his own thing. Six words about the traditional owners and entire sentences about everyone else. He didn't just do it at the Liberal Council. He also did it at the Migration and Settlement Awards and at the Prime Minister's Literary Awards. Morrison has decided to add non-Indigenous people to the acknowledgments without reflecting on what that means and how it diminishes Aboriginal people.
Wurundjeri elder Aunty Joy Murphy-Wandin performs a Welcome to Country and Acknowledgment of Country before a State of Origin game in Melbourne. Picture: Getty Images
Wurundjeri elder Aunty Joy Murphy-Wandin performs
a Welcome to Country and Acknowledgment of Country
beforea State of Origin game in Melbourne. Picture:
Getty Images

Why does this matter? We know we are on Aboriginal land. We know Australia wasn't blank earth when colonised 200 years ago. Since the arrival of Cook and company, Aboriginal people have been raped and murdered, stolen from their families, had their cultural practices and beliefs erased. They earn less, learn less, die early. There is a lot we can do to redress that, but the very least we could do is to acknowledge that we are on Aboriginal land. It's a couple of minutes out of our respective days and might even encourage a tiny bit of reflection on the part of those of us who are listening. It's not a big ask to be part of a ceremony that has its traditions going back thousands of years (yes, yes, they didn't have exactly this before white people arrived, but Aboriginal people had their own ways of welcoming to country). 

In the aeons before, the Welcome to Country was a sign of peace. And it's this which irks D'harawal scholar Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews, a professor at the University of Technology Sydney (I work there too), the most. Bodkin-Andrews, who has researched Welcome to Country controversies, says the Prime Minister has appropriated an act of peace and embedded war. 
Bodkin-Andrews reminds us that Welcome to Countries (delivered by traditional custodians) are about Aboriginal people sharing their histories and their connections to Country. Acknowledgments (given by Aboriginal people who are not custodians of the land or by non-Aboriginal people) should respect this. 

"It's asking for understanding and demonstrating that our arms are open to you. Military personnel can be agents of war and Morrison's comments are warmongering in a symbol of peace. That is ultimately disrespectful." 

It's also puzzling. Why acknowledge that particular category of Australian?

"It's reflective of his mentality and the party he stands for."

NOTES

* Jenna Price, BA (Communications) (NSWIT), MA (UTS), PhD (Sydney), Senior Lecturer, Journalism Program, University of Technology Sydney.


Monday, 28 October 2019

Intelligence and Security Committee of the Australian Parliament declined to recommend passage of Minister for Home Affairs Dutton's identity matching services bill


The Guardian, 24 October 2019:

Mark Dreyfus, as the most senior Labor member on the committee, also commented on the bill: 

The Intelligence and Security Committee of the Parliament is declining to recommend the passage of the identity matching services bill. 

Instead, Labor and Liberal members of the committee are uniting to recommend that the identity matches services bill be completely redrafted and referred back to the Intelligence and Security Committee for further inquiry when it is reintroduced. 

In taking this step, I congratulate all members of the committee for putting the national interest first and sending a strong message about the value of this committee. 

The identity matching services bill purports to facilitate the exchange of identity information pursuant to the objective of an intergovernmental agreement reached by Coag [in] October 2017. 

But it includes none of the limitations or safeguards anticipated by that agreement. 

The bill includes almost no limitations or safeguards at all. 

As explained in the committee’s report, the identity matching services bill would authorise the Department of Home Affairs to create and maintain facilities for the sharing of facial images and other identity information between government agencies and in some cases, non government agencies entities. 

The bill would also authorised the Department of Home Affairs to develop and maintain to centralised facilities for the provision of what are called identity matching services. 

The first of these two facilities would be called an interoperability hub. 

The Hub would act as a router through which government agencies across Australia could request and transmit information as part of an identity matching service. 

The second would be a federated database of information contained in government identity documents. As discussed in the committee’s report, the potential implications of these two new facilities for the privacy of all Australians are profound. 

Those implications do not appear to have even been considered by the Minister for Home Affairs or by his department. 

While a bill provides for six different identity mentioned services, the service that elicited the most concerned from submitters to the committee’s inquiry is the face of identification service. 

That service would enable authorities across Australia to use huge databases of facial images to determine the identity of an unknown person. 

Using that service, a law enforcement agency could submit a facial image for matching against a database of facial images contained in a in government identification documents, such as a database containing every driver licence photo in Australia. 

In return, the agency would receive a small number of matching or near matching facial images from the database. The agency could then access biographical information associated with those images. 

The potential for such a service to be used for mass or blanket surveillance, such as CCTV being used to identify Australians going about their business in real time was raised by numerous submitters to the inquiry......

Mark Dreyfus: Like my colleagues on the committee, I do not believe that the government is proposing to engage in or to facilitate the mass surveillance of Australians. But I do accept that, given the near complete absence of legislated safeguards in the Identity-Matching Services Bill 2019, those concerns cannot simply be ignored. If there is no intention for the proposed identity-matching services to be used to engage in mass surveillance activities, the government should not object to amending the bill to ensure that those services cannot, as a matter of law, be used in that manner. 

Concerns were also raised about the proposed one-to-many identity-matching service being used to identify people who are engaging in protest activity. This does concern me. It was only this month that the Minister for Home Affairs, the minister responsible for this very bill, called for mandatory prison sentences for people who engage in protest activity; called for the same people to have their welfare payments cancelled; and also called for them to be photographed and publicly shamed. As presently drafted, this bill would not prohibit authorities from using the proposed face-matching services to identify individuals in a crowd who are engaging in lawful protest activity. That would be concerning in the best of times; it is particularly concerning in the light of the authoritarian disposition of the Minister for Home Affairs. 

A raft of other concerns was expressed about the Identity-Matching Services Bill, including in relation to this government’s abysmal record on cybersecurity. 

I do not propose to list all of the concerns here today, but I encourage everyone to read about them in the committee’s report. 

I would like to thank my colleagues on the committee, Labor and Liberal, for their work on this important report. It should not escape anyone watching these proceedings today that, by agreeing to the set of recommendations contained in this report, the Liberal members of the committee have placed the national interest first. For that, I would like to pay tribute to Senators Stoker, Fawcett and Abetz, and the members for Canning, Berowra and Goldstein. I would like to pay particular tribute and extend my thanks to the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, the member for Canning. I also thank the committee secretariat for their excellent work, both in this parliament and in the last parliament, which underpins this report.

Text of the Identity-matching Services Bill 2019 can be found here.

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, "Advisory report on the Identity-matching Services Bill 2019 and the Australian Passports Amendment (Identity-matching Services) Bill 2019" can be found here.