human rights

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Antique Roses at The AlexMy week of Monday 23 to Sunday 29 October 2017 was adequate. I’ve been having a relaxed Sunday, though, and I don’t want to spoil that, so let’s get on with the show.

Articles

Podcasts

Media Appearances

  • On Tuesday, I spoke about the targeting of advertising on social media on ABC Canberra.
  • On Wednesday, I spoke about encryption policies and, briefly, Nazis for the next episode of the Covert Contact podcast, which will appear very soon. If you haven’t done so, you can still listen to my first appearance, the episode about Australian Cyber Policy.
  • My story about an Australian defence contractor’s data breach from a couple of weeks ago was picked up by a Ukrainian news site, and a site in Italian that I didn’t investigate further.

Corporate Largesse

None.

The Week Ahead

Monday will definitely be a jumbled day of editorial planning, research, story pitches, and administrivia. I’m glad I’ve already sketched out the rest of the week.

On Tuesday I’m heading to Sydney for a couple meetings, but I’ve got room for more. I’m also doing a radio spot on ABC Melbourne at 1930 AEDT.

Wednesday will be a day of writing, as will most of the rest of the week.

At some point, I’ll also announce a new crowdfunding campaign. It’s been more than a year since my last concentrated ask-for-money burst, and the gods know my budget needs it. But there’s been some changes in the crowdfunding landscape since then, so I don’t want to rush it. Stay tuned for details.

Further Ahead

At this stage, I haven’t locked in anything specific for the rest of the calendar year. Please feel free to make some suggestions.

[Photo: Antique Roses at The Alex. The back bar of the Alexandra Hotel, Leura, was decorated with a bouquet of antique roses taken from the pub’s own garden. Photographed on 26 October 2017.]

Screenshot of Tony Abbott from "A message from the Prime Minister", 20 June 2015The 9pm Edict cover art version 2, 150 pixelsDonald Trump demonstrates some modern thinking. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd submits to a Voight-Kampff test. And Senator Jacqui Lambie lays down the law on renewable energy.

In this podcast, there’s talk of windfarms, wind turbine syndrome, and a lack of science. Also, Tony Abbott, terrorism, George Brandis, poetry, and a little bit about fascism.

You can listen to the podcast below. But if you want all of the episodes, now and in the future, subscribe to the podcast feed, or subscribe automatically in iTunes, or go to SoundCloud.

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If you’d like to comment on this episode, please add your comment below, or Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

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Royal Visit 1954 -- Central Station: click to embiggenThe 9pm Edict cover art version 2, 150 pixelsThere’s terror in Australia’s suburbs. But fear not. Attorney-General the Honourable Senator George “Soapy the Ankle” Brandis QC is on the case. And Bob Garfield speaks true wisdom.

In this podcast, there’s talk of trains, bombs, terrorism, conspiracies, more bombs, and more trains.

You can listen to the podcast below. But if you want all of the episodes, now and in the future, subscribe to the podcast feed, or subscribe automatically in iTunes, or go to SoundCloud.

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NOTE: Make sure you also listen to The 9pm Supplementary Sense of Occasion.

If you’d like to comment on this episode, please add your comment below, or Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

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An Australian bureaucrat reacts to allegations that Operation Sovereign Borders removes safety gear from lifeboats: click to embiggenThis man’s name is Mick Kinley, and he’s shrugging with indifference at allegations that safety equipment is deliberately removed from the lifeboats used to return asylum seekers to Indonesia. But that OK, he’s the acting chief executive officer of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

I’ve never met Kinley. I know nothing of his work apart from this incident. But do we really need any further context? The bureaucrat in charge of maritime safety is challenged over what sounds like a breach of maritime safety, but, you know, “Whatever.”

I believe this is what’s called the banality of evil.

Hang on, I’d better scroll back a bit…

Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) is the Australian government’s grand-sounding name for the grubby process of intercepting any boats at sea that contain asylum seekers and returning them to Indonesia. They’re put into standard orange lifeboats towed behind our ships, and once they’re within a certain distance of Indonesia they’re cast off and left to find their own way hone.

But as The Guardian’s Paul Farrell reported on 7 May, safety equipment is removed from those lifeboats beforehand — ropes, scissors, knives, a mirror, fishing line and even buckets.

On 27 May, Kinley was questioned about this in the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee by Senator Stephen Conroy, who was clearly unimpressed. You can read the transcript — the relevant exchange starts on page 86 — but you should really watch the video to see the body language for yourself.

Actually, it’s worth picking up the story a little before that video starts, on page 84…

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Early this morning, Australia’s Minister for Privacy Brendan O’Connor announced that the government will start a public consultation into whether Australia should have a statutory right to privacy.

The media release was emailed at 6.26am AEST, a clear sign that it was a calm, reasoned decision made as part of a long-term government strategy. Sorry? No? Read the release?

“The News of the World scandal and other recent mass breaches of privacy, both at home and abroad, have put the spotlight on whether there should be such a right.”

The Australian Law Reform Commission’s recommendation for such a law has been sitting on the table for three years now. But hey, something in the news cycle triggers a potential “announceable” and… disco!

Right then.

I’ve already written straight news stories today for CSO Online, Australia to consider right-to-privacy law and Watchdogs welcome Australia’s right-to-privacy move. I’ll be writing about the timing thing tomorrow for ABC’s The Drum.

Right now, though, I have one question. It’s a question I’ve asked before, but I was reminded by something Mark Newton said earlier this evening.

How come we don’t see such sudden action, ever, when is comes to giving Australians a statutory right to freedom of speech?

Barry O’Farrell, I’ve got my eye on you. It’s one thing to start sorting out the mess left after a decade and half of NSW Labor government that was incompetent to the point of, I suspect, corruption. I’m sure we can all provide a list of folks whose bank and phone records we’d like to see pulled by ICAC. But that’s very different from threatening with sacking a local government body whose actions happen not to coincide with the interests of your mates in the pro-Israel cheer squad.

Yes, Marrickville Council decided to boycott Israel over that whole Palestine thing. So what? What business is that of yours as NSW Premier? None.

As an individual, I have the right to hold whatever political views I like. Freedom of thought and freedom of political expression are amongst the very few human rights we’ve properly protected here in Australia. Should I decide that some individual, group, business, organisation or nation holds views so repugnant that I’d rather not support them, then it’s my right not to do business with them.

As a proper, legally-constituted, legitimately-elected local government body — as a legal “person” — the Marrickville Council also has that basic legal right to choose who it does business with.

Now as it happens, I reckon Marrickville’s decision wasn’t terribly well thought through. As my colleague Josh Taylor over at ZDNet Australia points out, boycotting everything that comes out of Israel denies you access to the latest computing technology from Intel, amongst other things. The very fact that Marrickville Council didn’t respond to his questions but instead waved him off to a prepared statement at their website proves, in my opinion, that they don’t have the intellectual integrity or moral backbone to discuss and stand by their decision. By all means criticise them for that.

But until very recently I’d spent most of a decade as a citizen of Marrickville. Yes, there’s a certain idealistic leftism suffusing the place, if I may resort to that tediously tired old left-right classification. But from a resident’s perspective they got on with the job of delivering services with far fewer allegations of dodgy behaviour than certain Labor-dominated local councils I could name. Or Liberal-dominated councils, for that matter. Why isn’t your attention focussed on them?

So, Mr O’Farrell, unless you’ve got some prima facie evidence of corruption or misconduct on the part of Marrickville Council, piss off out of it. It’s up to the citizens of Marrickville to decide whether they do or don’t support their Council’s actions, no-one else’s.

You’ve got enough on your plate to be getting on with as it is, Mr O’Farrell. Get on with it.

The 9pm EdictA criminal is dead, and Australian media dances on his grave. Another man dies after being chucked out of the country — but he’s a criminal too, so who cares? And something about a volcano and aeroplanes.

After a ridiculously long break, here is episode 11 of The 9pm Edict. Enjoy.

You can listen to this episode below. But if you want them all, subscribe to the podcast feed, or even subscribe automatically in iTunes.

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For more information about the topics covered in this episode, check out how the Victorian government may have to pay compensation for the death in prison of Carl Williams, the bizarre case against Christine Nixon, the federal government’s changes to refugee processing, Tony Abbott’s border protection truck, how Australia leads the global economic recovery, and the sad tale of Andrew Moore.

If you’d like to comment on this episode, please add your comment below, or Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

[Credits: The 9pm Edict theme by mansardian, Edict fanfare by neonaeon, all from The Freesound Project. Photograph of Stilgherrian taken 29 March 2009 by misswired, used by permission.]

“The only difference between a Nation State and a Mafioso protection racket is the letterhead and the rituals — and the series of concessions, hard-won over eight centuries, that we call ‘civil liberties’.”

That’s the start of my guest post today for Electronic Frontiers Australia, entitled Without civil liberties, government is just a criminal racket.

It’s an essay that combines some thoughts about the constant battle for civil liberties with my reaction to the video posted by Wikileaks at Collateral Murder. It’s footage from 2007 showing a Reuters photojournalist and his driver and others being killed by US helicopter gunfire in Baghdad. It’s footage the US Department of Defence didn’t want you to see. It’s challenging to watch.

This is one of a series of guest posts for the EFA as part of their current fundraising campaign.

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Guy Barnett today called for an end to fair criminal trials. Well, effectively.

In Senate Estimates today, Senator Barnett discovered that the government had spent around $10 million on the legal defence of nine people charged with terrorism offences. They were eventually found guilty. So Senator Barnett reckons that legal defence was a waste of money.

Senator Barnett, who chairs the Scrutiny of Government Waste Committee, issued a media release earlier today headlined $10 million spent on legal aid to defend the rights of terrorists.

Apparently if someone is to be found guilty — which he must assume can be known in advance — then the cost of their legal defence is “government waste”.

Now people who are capable of joined-up thinking may see the logical problem and risk to human rights here. Like, you know, innocent until proven guilty and the right to a fair trial and all that stuff. So I’ve just sent the following email.

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Crikey logoI’ve been very busy this week following Tuesday’s announcement that mandatory ISP-level Internet “filtering” will go ahead, writing stories for Crikey and ABC Online.

Two stories for Crikey:

  • Conroy’s internet filter: so what? Senator Conroy’s claim that “ISP-level filtering of a defined list of URLs can be delivered with 100% accuracy” is perhaps true in a narrow technical sense, but it misrepresents the Enex TestLab report. And it ignores Enex’s finding that “a technically competent user could, if they wished, circumvent the filtering technology.”
  • Internet filtering: first step on the path to Burma? Not just my fear, but that of retired High Court Justice Michael Kirby. I also point out how the existing censorship system has extended the definition of Refused Classification — that is, banned material — three times in the last decade, often without public consultation. Such scope creep is a worry.

ABC logo

And my first outing for ABC’s The Drum — well, for Unleashed, there’s still some unresolved branding issues — is Evidence-based policy? Not on this filter! I argue that the mandatory filtering program isn’t about “protecting the children” at all.

A sample:

If the plan were really about protecting the children, and if it were really evidence-based, the government would have first have figured out what risks children actually face — online and everywhere else. They’d then figure out the best methods of countering those risks. Then they’d figure out the most cost-effective ways of implementing those solutions.

If we did that, we’d probably find that the risks are the very same ones that child protection experts keep banging on about. Bullying by their peers. Abuse from within their own homes and families. Poverty and its associated health risks. Obesity.

But this is politics, not child protection.

This policy is probably about a Senate preferences deal between Labor and Family First. It’s certainly about the political demands of a small but vocal and well-connected minority of conservative Christian voters and the devilishly evil internet.

The political solution has already been chosen: compulsory censorship by an automatic filter. The political goal is to sell that policy to the voters.

The comments threads on all articles is revealing fascinating stuff. Please read. And comment.

That’s all link to my recent stuff. In part 2 I’ll link to some of the other clever writing on this issue.

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