Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Miners in, Greenies out in Queensland

Having Greenies make environmental decisions is just fine  -- but having miners make decision on mines is bad?

THE Queensland government has given the "keys to the blood bank to Dracula" by letting a mining company staffer write its environmental policies, activists say.

The ABC is reporting QCoal's corporate affairs chief James Mackay has been in charge of developing the LNP's environment policy since 2012.

Mr Mackay also worked full-time for the LNP during the 2012 election, while he was being paid $10,000 a month by the coal company, the ABC says.

Greenpeace says the revelations are extraordinary.

"(Premier) Campbell Newman says 'we're in the coal business'. Well, it actually looks like his government is the coal business," program director Ben Pearson told AAP.

"The Queensland government has handed the keys to the blood bank over to Dracula. It's just ridiculous."

Australian Marine Conservation Society spokeswoman Felicity Wishart says the report reveals the hold miners have on the Newman government.

The government is clearly happy to put mining ahead of all other interests, including the environment, she says.

Mr Mackay has chaired the LNP's state environment and heritage protection committee, which develops policy for discussion at the party's annual conference, since 2012, the ABC reports.

QCoal owner billionaire Chris Wallin is one of the LNP's biggest donors, reportedly giving the party $120,000 in two donations just before the 2012 poll.

One was for the "loan" of Mr Mackay to the LNP between January and March 2012.

An LNP spokesman told the ABC there was no conflict of interest involving Mr Mackay, who had disclosed his employment with QCoal.

QCoal is embroiled in controversy over plans to divert Coral Creek in north Queensland to mine coal underneath.

The diversion was approved by the state government without requiring a new or amended environmental impact assessment, despite being classed as an assessment that carried "risk of serious harm", the ABC reports.


Australian navy turns back "asylum seeker" boat to Indonesia after loading three extra people

The asylum seeker boat that allegedly deterred Tony Abbott from meeting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono this week has been found in Indonesia after the Australian navy reportedly put three extra people on board and then turned it back.

People on board the wooden boat have told authorities in Indonesia that the Australian navy loaded two Albanians and one Indonesian onto the boat before sending it back to a remote island in eastern Indonesia.

There is no further information about the extra passengers, but there is speculation that they may be the two asylum seekers who were taken to Christmas Island for “urgent medical treatment” after another tow-back operation in February. The third may be an Indonesian crew member.

If the two were medically treated on Australian soil then loaded onto the next available boat to be pushed back to Indonesia, it would represent a controversial new turn in Australia’s tow-back policy.

A statement released by the Indonesian navy late on Monday night said 18 asylum seekers — 16 Indians and two Nepalese — had set out on April 26 from South Sulawesi. They were intercepted by Operation Sovereign Borders vessels on May 1 near Ashmore Reef, an Australian territory in the ocean west of Darwin.

The asylum seekers told the Indonesian naval officers the Australian vessels then escorted their wooden boat closer to Indonesia where, on Sunday, the three extra men — two Albanians and an Indonesian — were put on board.

The wooden boat was then left on the ocean and directed towards Indonesian territory. It ran out of fuel at an island in Indonesia’s remote eastern province, where the men were stranded, then found by Indonesian navy personnel.

It is the eighth confirmed Australian turn-back operation since the first boat arrived on December 19.

In early February, about 34 refugees from Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal were returned in one of Australia’s unsinkable orange lifeboats. Those people said that two of their number had been ill and had been taken away by the Australian navy.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that two people had been taken to Christmas Island with health issues, one at least for “urgent medical treatment with a heart condition”.

No further information about the two has been released.

Mr Abbott had made plans to accept the invitation of the Indonesian president to meet on the sidelines of an “open government” conference in Bali this week to try to smooth tensions over recent spying revelations.

However, Mr Abbott cancelled those plans late on Friday, citing the pre-budget period and the release of the Commission of Audit. The Indonesian president’s spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said Dr Yudhoyono accepted that explanation at face value.

The arrival of this boat, however, raises the question about whether the real reason for the cancellation was to save embarrassment on both sides.


Leftist thuggery again

The ABC TV show Q&A had to temporarily abandon its live broadcast on Monday night after a group of students in the audience began to protest about education funding.

About 20 minutes into the program, the students launched a series of questions aimed at federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, before unfurling a banner over the set where he was sitting.

The questions focused on Mr Pyne's proposed changes to higher education, which would entail increased competition from private colleges and higher fees.

When the students unfurled the banner, drawing attention to a rally to be held at the University of Technology, Sydney, the live broadcast was suddenly abandoned.

The show cut to an old episode, featuring a performance by Katie Noonan, while the students were evicted from ABC1's Ultimo studios.


Internet  piracy

After months of speculation, Federal cabinet will reportedly consider proposals as early as this week to crack down on illegal downloads. Options on the table include issuing warnings to people who repeatedly download illegally, as well as forcing Australian Internet Service Providers to block file-sharing websites such as the Pirate Bay. It's hard to see these measures doing much to turn the tide of piracy in Australia.

The government's renewed war on piracy comes amid a revamp of Australian copyright law, although Attorney-General George Brandis seems more interested in protecting the interests of big business than actually bringing Australia's copyright laws into the digital age. Brandis baulked at the idea of US-style Fair Use copyright laws designed to grant extra rights to end users. Instead he wants to focus on protecting the rights of copyright holders via web filtering and legal threats.

Brandis has been laying on the anti-piracy rhetoric rather thick, as have people like Village Roadshow chief Graham Burke – who recently attacked Google for daring to suggest that online piracy is "primarily an availability and pricing problem" which won't be solved by harsh but ineffective regulation. Last year a Federal parliamentary committee actually urged Australians to bypass geo-blocking to escape the Australia tax on hardware and content, but Brandis still believes the answer to piracy is simply to wield a bigger stick.

Brandis has spoken of laws which "ultimately require ISPs to ‘take down’ websites hosting infringing content", but surely he realises how pointless this is considering that the bulk of piracy sites lay beyond Australia's jurisdiction. Blocking such sites is more feasible than trying to get them taken offline.

Of course blocking sites like the Pirate Bay is also a futile gesture, as bypassing government-imposed filtering is child's play thanks to the range of free and paid proxy servers which bypass filtering and Virtual Private Network services which mask your internet traffic from your Australian ISP. The government couldn't crack down on VPN usage without impacting on legitimate business users.

The Pirate Bay isn't the only BitTorrent search engine in the world, and the Great Firewall of Australia would have an impossible job on its hands trying to block them all – just ask foreign lawmakers who seem to have lost their battle against BitTorrent search engines. Of course the nature of peer-to-peer networks like BitTorrent means that they can't be crippled because there's no central point to attack.

BitTorrent is far from the only peer-to-peer file-sharing network popular with pirates. Along with peer-to-peer networks, Australians can also turn to Usenet, a wide range of MegaUpload-style file storage services and a vast number of direct streaming sites like Watchseries.It. History has shown that if you cut one head off two more will take its place – a lesson which often seems lost on lawmakers more interested in making noise than finding constructive solutions to problems.

The alternative to blocking piracy sites on the internet is to block people from using the internet using graduated response "three-strikes" laws. After a few warnings for illegal downloads you're slapped with a fine or perhaps even have your internet access cut. Copyright giants such as Village Roadshow lost their court battle with Australian ISP iiNet, but there's still room for the government for the government to step in and legislate.

Local copyright groups have shied away in the past from taking a hard line and attacking pirates in their lounge rooms – a tactic which turned into a public relations disaster in the US. Back in 2008 the head of the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft publicly admitted that the group has no interest in prosecuting file-sharers. Behind closed doors, they're reportedly still reluctant to go down the path of actually disconnecting people.

It remains to be seen how draconian Attorney-General Brandis' three-strikes proposals are, but they're unlikely to deter pirates when it's so simple to evade detection in the first place.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Indians? Albanians? Is everybody a "refugee" now>