Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Australian Jihadi is a misfit

It's only the opinion of a Leftist journalist but it sounds credible

The Fairfax journalist who met David Hicks after his release from jail says she believes he would find it hard to communicate with those who expect him to apologise for his actions. The journalist, Penelope Debelle, says the convicted terrorism supporter appears to have reflected on his actions during his time in detention and jail.

Mr Hicks had been expected to make an apology when he was released from Adelaide's Yatala prison on Saturday. However a statement read by his lawyer after the release thanked supporters, but added only that Mr Hicks was not strong enough to speak.

Ms Debelle says her brief meeting with Mr Hicks and his father Terry yesterday confirmed that Mr Hicks' re-adjustment to society would be a slow process. "Having met him, [it] is very obvious he's not a confident enough person, he's not socialised in an easy way," she said. "He's just not skilled enough - socially skilled enough - to deal with unwanted attention."


Do the defence bureaucrats EVER get anything right?

Frigates 'can't go to war' despite $1.4bn upgrade

The navy's front-line fighting ships cannot defend themselves and are unable to be sent into battle, despite a $1.4 billion upgrade. A navy insider close to the 4000-tonne Adelaide Class Guided Missile Frigates has revealed the ships' complex electronic systems are not working properly. He told The Advertiser that sending the 1970s ships to war would be like sending a VK Commodore to race at Bathurst.

Senior officials now admit that the 1997 frigate upgrade project was a "debacle" created by the Howard Government's decision to maximise the sale price of the Sydney-based contractor, Australian Defence Industries, when it was sold to the French firm, Thales.

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon described the upgrade as "another nightmare" Labor has inherited from the previous Coalition government. The project is four years late and includes four ships - not the original six.

The navy insider, who asked not to be named, said sailors were quitting because their ships could not be deployed to the Middle East or any conflict zone. Navy chief Vice-Admiral Russ Shalders last year refused to accept the first ship in the program, HMAS Sydney, for "operational release" as its fighting systems did not function properly.

The whistleblower said the ships' anti-missile and anti-torpedo systems could not be integrated. Their electronic support measures (eyes and ears for detecting incoming airborne threats) were "a joke". "That means they would be going into a war zone virtually blind," the sailor said. "The torpedo detection system cannot be integrated." The ships also are unable to us long-range chaff, which confuses enemy missiles and takes them from ships, link their helicopters to war-fighting data and integrate towed and on-board sonars to detect enemy torpedoes.

The sailor said what angered him and comrades was the gross waste of taxpayer funds when the navy could have bought virtually new and more capable U.S. Navy Kidd Class Destroyers in the late-1990s for a bargain price.

Mr Fitzgibbon said the upgrade was "another nightmare" Labor would have to manage. "We are, however, determined to deliver the level of capability required for our navy to operate safely in various areas around the world," he said. The best news from the project has been the integration of the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile for self-defence. That is not enough to send them to war.

The total cost of the upgrade is $1.46 billion, or $360 million per ship. Government auditors say up to 98 per cent of the money has been paid to Thales despite the project being four years late and not one ship being operational.

The officer who inherited what is widely regarded as the worst contract signed by the Commonwealth since the Collins "dud subs" submarines, Commodore Drew McKinnie, said that, despite all the problems, he was confident the project would deliver "significant improvements" to the ships. The head of Major Surface Ship Projects with the Defence Material Organisation said he was seeing "much improved performance" from radar sensors.


More on Australia's proposed internet censorship

It sounds entirely defensible, at first: the Federal Government plans to protect unwary children by blocking violence and pornography on the internet. Yet this simple sounding initiative - barely discussed during the election - is riddled with technical, financial, moral and social complexities. The Government's plan, overseen by Telecommunications Minister Stephen Conroy, would require internet service providers (ISPs) to block undesirable sites on computers accessed by all Australians.

A seething Dr Roger Clarke, chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation, bluntly described the proposal as "stupid and inappropriate". He said not only was it unworkable, but it was a sinister blow to an individual's rights to use the internet without censorship. "Not only will it not work, it is quite dangerous to let the Government censor the net and take control out of the hands of parents,' Clarke said. "It is an inappropriate thing for them to be doing. Mr Conroy is like a schoolmaster playing God with the Australian population, all because of the dominance of a moral minority."

Conroy's view is that the legislation - compared by critics to Chinese-style internet censorship - will render unseen the most vile and extreme sites only. "Labor makes no apologies to those that argue that any regulation on the internet is like going down the Chinese road," Conroy said. "If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd Labor Government is going to disagree."

One problem for the Government is that blocking child porn may unintentionally block acceptable sites. The history of the internet is full of such examples; one blogger found that, due to spamware set to block ads for sex drug Cialis, he was unable to publish the word "socialist".

Another problem, according to civil libertarians, is that policing the net should be left to parents - not a big brother-style bureaucracy. And, if it is disingenuous to compare Labor's policy to China's malevolent control over web access to its citizens, it is equally disingenuous of Rudd's Government to claim the issue simply relates to child pornography. There are genuine concerns that the Government - backed by morals groups such as Family First - will in time extend the powers outside of their intended target area.

Also of concern is that, under the Government's plan, users would be permitted to "opt out" of the scheme - and might therefore find themselves listed as possible deviants.

Service providers fear any legislation would be "the thin end of the wedge", heralding widespread censorship. Besides, what evidence is there that young children using the web are regularly stumbling across child pornography? Sites used by paedophiles are well hidden and frequently relocated to avoid detection.

On a practical level, ISPs fear the mass blocking of sites could slow internet speeds and cost millions of dollars to implement. Crucially, the Government has not explained how such a system would be paid for or who would monitor it. The truth is, despite the policy having been part of Labor's manifesto since 2005, and following claims the Government is "engaged constructively with the sector", no one has the faintest idea how such a system would work.

It is expected any future filtered feeds would be based on a current voluntary UK system operated by British Telecom. Sites identified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (AMAC) would be "blacklisted" and then blocked by the servers. The ability for download speeds to be maintained would depend on the exact number of sites blocked - it is suspected around 2000 sites could cause problems. A user typing in the address would be sent to an error page or possibly - as in Scandinavia - redirected to a police page.

However, ISPs fear a system based on key indicator words could rapidly clog the system. In the UK the Internet Watch Foundation has its encrypted list of 1200 paedophile and race-hate sites updated twice a day. Even still, it is unlikely to deter computer savvy paedophiles here from simply relocating their sites or from swapping pictures on message boards or in forums, thus rendering any filter impotent.

So far the industry, although eager not to be seen to be dragging its feet on child pornography, has been noticeably reticent in its response to Labor's plans. Internet Industry Association spokesman Peter Coroneos was keen to emphasise the work already being done by service providers in supplying free filters. They are likely to clarify their position after ACMA runs simulated tests on a filtered network later this year. "We obviously want to know if this will have an impact on network performance," Coroneos said. "At the moment we don't know what the extent of it will be, what it will cost, and whether it will set a precedent for other changes. We just don't know if it is feasible."


Leftist logic: If people are failing a test it must be a bad test

Some looniness from Australia's new Leftist government. I think the test could be better but the percentage who fail it is no evidence of that

The Federal Government will review the operation of the citizenship test after the release of figures that show more than a fifth of those sitting it are failing. Since the test was introduced in October 10,636 citizenship tests have been sat around the country, and 2311 were failed. Under laws introduced by the previous government anybody wanting to become an Australian citizen must now pass a 20-question, computer-based quiz on Australian history, "values" and way of life and demonstrate an adequate knowledge of English. Only residents who have lived here for four years can apply for citizenship. Those who fail to meet the 60 per cent pass mark can resit the test as often as they want until they get it right.

While in opposition, Kevin Rudd gave his backing to the scheme, as well as to plans to make new arrivals to the country sign a so-called values statement saying they agreed to abide by the Australian way of life. However, the new Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, confirmed yesterday that the Government would review the citizenship test in light of the poor test result returns and could make wholesale changes. The Government would assess the process to see whether improvements could be made, Senator Evans said. "The citizenship test should be about increasing awareness of citizen's responsibilities and of the Australian way of life," he said. Regardless of the problems, the minister encouraged people to continue sitting the test.

The former prime minister John Howard was directly involved in crafting the themes covered in the test. Despite the high failure rate, the test questions, which are drawn from a pool of 200, are comparatively simple and only need be answered in multiple-choice format. A sample question asks the applicant to say which one of three given values is important in modern Australia: that everyone has the same religion; that everyone has equality of opportunity; or that everyone belongs to the same political party.

Another asks which Australian was most famous for playing cricket: Rod Laver, Sir Donald Bradman or Sir Hubert Opperman. Others questions include the colours of the Aboriginal flag; the number of states and territories in Australia; and where the 1956 Olympics were held. All the answers are contained in a 46-page booklet that applicants can obtain free over the phone or the internet.

When the test was introduced the immigration minister Kevin Andrews denied it was racist or an election stunt, and said new immigrants needed to better integrate into the community. The test was opposed by the Liberal backbencher Petro Georgiou, who warned it would create unreasonable barriers for some people wanting to become citizens, especially those who could not speak English or read and write properly.


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