Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Manufacturing still shrinking

Which is fine as mining takes over.  There is an argument that manufacturing is more stable but plenty of manufacturers go broke too.  The difference is that manufacturers often get government help  -- while miners get treated like a milch cow

The rate of contraction in Australian manufacturing has slowed, although the sector is still going backwards.

The Australian Industry Group - PwC Performance of Manufacturing Index rose 5 points to 45.3 in August, but is still below the 50-point level that separates expansion from contraction.

Only three sectors out of 11 were growing last month: wood products and furniture, food and beverages, and miscellaneous manufactures.

Ai Group's chief executive Innes Willox says conditions in the sector remain difficult.

"Manufacturing conditions continue to be very challenging across the sector with the high dollar and weakness in demand in the domestic and export markets weighing on growth," he noted in the report.

"There are some encouraging signs in the August Australian PMI with the production sub-index lifting and the forward-looking new orders sub-index rising strongly."

However, despite a small reduction in the rate of job shedding, employment continued to fall in manufacturing for the fifth straight month.


Feds edge toward keeping online data for two years

Only dummies will be caught.  Real crooks will be careful to be untraceable

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon appears to have swung her support behind a controversial plan to capture the online data of all Australians, despite only six weeks ago saying "the case had yet to be made" for the policy.

The data retention plan - which would force all Australian telcos and internet service providers to store the online data of all Australians for up to two years - is the most controversial element of a package of more than 40 proposed changes to national security legislation.

If passed, the proposals would be the most significant expansion of national security powers since the Howard-era reforms of the early 2000s.

In a speech to be delivered at the Security in Government conference in Canberra today, Ms Roxon will say that law enforcement agencies need the data retention policy in order to be able to effectively target criminals.

"Many investigations require law enforcement to build a picture of criminal activity over a period of time. Without data retention, this capability will be lost," she will say, in a draft of the speech provided to Fairfax Media yesterday.

She will also say technological advancement since the advent of the internet is providing increasing room to hide for criminals and those who threaten Australia's security.

"The intention behind the proposed reform is to allow law enforcement agencies to continue investigating crime in light of new technologies. The loss of this capability would be a major blow to our law enforcement agencies and to Australia's national security."

But in an interview with Fairfax Media in mid July, Ms Roxon appeared to have a different view. "I'm not yet convinced that the cost and the return - the cost both to industry and the [privacy] cost to individuals - that we've made the case for what it is that people use in a way that benefits our national security," she said.

"I think there is a genuine question to be tested, which is why it's such a big part of the proposal."

Her apparent change of mind may be a result of conversations with the Australian Federal Police, who have long pushed for mandatory online data retention. Neil Gaughan heads the AFP's High Tech Crime Centre and is a vocal advocate for the policy.

"Without data retention laws I can guarantee you that the AFP won't be able to investigate groups such as Anonymous over data breaches because we won't be able to enforce the law," he told a cyber security conference recently.

But Andrew Lewman, the executive director of the Tor software project, which disguises a person's location when surfing the web, challenges that view. In July he told Fairfax Media data retention impedes the effectiveness of law enforcement.

"It sounds good and something sexy that politicians should get behind. However, it doesn't stop crime, it builds a massive dossier on everyone at millisecond resolution, and creates more work and challenges for law enforcement to catch actual criminals.

"The problem isn't too little data, the problem is there is already too much data."

Proposals 'characteristic of a police state'

The proposals are being examined by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security to provide partial scrutiny of Australia's intelligence community.

The committee has thus far received almost 200 submissions from the agencies, members of the public as well as civil liberties and online rights groups.

In a heated submission to the inquiry, Victoria's Acting Privacy Commissioner, Anthony Bendall, dubbed the proposals "characteristic of a police state", arguing that data retention in particular was "premised on the assumption that all citizens should be monitored".

"Not only does this completely remove the presumption of innocence which all persons are afforded, it goes against one of the essential dimensions of human rights and privacy law: freedom from surveillance and arbitrary intrusions into a person's life."

ISP iiNet said government had failed to demonstrate how current laws were failing or how criminals and terrorists posed a threat to networks, and said asking carriers to intercept and store customers' data for two years could make them "agents of the state" and increase costs.

A joint submission from telco industry groups argued it would cost between $500 million and $700 million to keep data for two years. It called for full compensation from the government's security agencies.

The Australian Federal Police and the Australian Taxation Office were among the few supporting the proposal to retain  telecommunications data.

The ATO said the proposal would be consistent with European practices and that being able to access real-time telecommunications data would allow it to "respond more effectively" to attempts to defraud the Commonwealth.

The AFP, in its submission, said interception capabilities were increasingly being "undermined" by fundamental changes to the telecommunications industry and communications technologies. It said telco reform was needed "in order to avoid further degradation of existing capability".

Through the use of case studies, the AFP argued that on numerous occasions it had been restricted by what it could do under current telecommunications laws, and said that many offences went un-prosecuted because of this.

Costs may be passed on to consumers

The AFP conceded that the volume of data and its retention by telcos for use as evidence for agencies presented "challenges", but didn’t disclose how such challenges could be tackled.

Such challenges were highlighted in submissions by others like Victoria's Acting Privacy Commissioner Anthony Bendall. He said smaller ISPs, for instance, "may not be able to afford the data storage costs, and these costs may be passed on to consumers".

"It would appear that public support for this type of proposal is largely absent," Bendall said.

Users may abandon web

Bendall also said that data retention could "create an extreme chilling effect" not only on technology but on social interactions, many of which are now conducted solely online.

"Users may move away from using online services due to the fear that their communications are being monitored," he said. "Simply put, the proposal could mean that individuals, due to concerns about surveillance, revert back to offline transactions.

"If this occurred, it would affect existing efficiencies of both businesses and government," he said.

The Australian Privacy Foundation was just as scathing.

"Too many of the proposals outlined ... would herald a major and unacceptable increase in the powers of law enforcement and national security agencies to intrude into the lives of all Australians," the APF said.

The APF said the discussion paper released with the proposals was "misleading, and probably intentionally so".

Fears for journalist's sources

It’s not just privacy advocates and telcos that expressed concern with the proposals, but the journalist union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance. In its submission it said it was concerned that any expansion of interception powers and the powers of intelligence agencies had "the potential to threaten press freedom".

"There is considerable concern about the power of police and intelligence agencies to intercept communications, a concern not given proper consideration in the terms of reference," the MEAA said.

Online users' lobby group Electronics Frontiers Australia raised similar concerns to others but pointed out that one of the 40 proposed changes to national security legislation, which required people to divulge passwords, could lead to self-incrimination. It said should such a law be enacted it would undermine "the right of individuals to not co-operate with an investigation".

The lobby group also highlighted concerns with another proposal which would allow the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to use an innocent person's computer to get into a suspect's computer. "The proposal that ASIO would be permitted to 'add, delete or alter data or interfere with, interrupt, or obstruct the lawful use of a computer' could lead to some very serious consequences," it said.

Such consequences could include, it said, pollution of evidence, potentially leading to failures of convictions. It could also provide the means for evidence to be "planted" on innocent parties, it said.


A "cow" or an "unflushable t*rd"?  Conservative versus Leftist abuse

No prizes for guessing which of the above came from a Leftist

When walking my dog Nancy early Sunday evening, I turned on to BBC Radio's World Today Weekend program. Feminist Jane Caro was banging on from Sydney about just how sexist Aussie blokes really are.

Caro soon downloaded how 2GB presenter Alan Jones had recently declared: "Women are destroying the joint." The reference was to the former Victorian police commissioner Christine Nixon and the Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore. Then Caro commented how one-time Liberal Party operative Grahame Morris had called 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales a "cow", after her interview with Tony Abbott.

It seems the level of measurable insult declines if it is directed at a conservative - male or female - by a continuing leftist. At this year's Mid-Winter Ball at Parliament House, Julian Morrow, one of the "Chaser boys" (average age late-30s) referred to mining entrepreneur Gina Rinehart as "the elephant not in the room". Laugh? The room, full of journalists, joined in the joke - knowing it was a personal putdown.

Indeed Morrow's tone is common for the public broadcaster. The likes of Caro said nothing when Bob Ellis, in January 2011, described the NSW Liberal MP Jillian Skinner on ABC's The Drum Online as looking "like a long-detested nagging land lady with four dead husbands and hairy shoulders". Moreover, the ABC managing director, Mark Scott, defended the publication of the piece because it was "particularly robust". You can say that again.

Earlier, Jonathan Green, the then-editor of The Drum, published Marieke Hardy's description of the Liberal MP Christopher Pyne as a "douchebag". It was later spiked. In 2008, The Drum also ran a piece by Ellis referring to Hillary Clinton's "towering frigidity" and complaining (without evidence, of course) that she did not engage in a particular sex act. No word was heard from Caro at the time. In recent times, Green was promoted by the ABC and now presents the Radio National Sunday Extra program.

In March, Germaine Greer appeared on Q&A and urged the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to get over her (alleged) "big arse". Invited back on the program last week, Greer was at it again. Responding to an approved question, Greer declared Gillard has a "fat arse" and advised her to "wave that arse". This was also not mentioned by Caro in her whinge on the BBC.

It is true Gillard has been subjected to some sexist comments by the likes of the Liberal senator Bill Heffernan and the former Labor leader Mark Latham. This has been properly criticised. But there were few defenders of John Howard during his time as prime minister. In his 2005 book Run, Johnny, Run, author Mungo MacCallum variously called Howard an unflushable turd, a little c---t and a shithouse rat. Right now, MacCallum's latest book is being promoted by the supposedly advertisement-free ABC.


Aging feminist sow finds a new pretext to suppress criticism of Australia's Leftist Prime Minister

Just as all criticism of Obama is "racist", so all criticism of Australia's female Prime Minister is "sexist", apparently.

Leftists can't stand criticism.  They know how fragile are the foundations of their arguments.  Take away the anger and the hate and there is very little left

Politicans, including prime ministers, have always copped abuse.  But Dr Anne Summers  argues that the level of political persecution directed at Julia Gillard may breach federal laws designed to protect people’s rights at work.


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