Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Prime Minister Tony Abbott vows to crack down on terrorism in Australia and overseas

AUSTRALIANS who attempt to join up to death cult terrorist groups abroad will be stripped of their citizenship under dramatic new laws to be brought before the Parliament within weeks.

In the first national security address by an Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott this morning warned that the risk of domestic terrorism was unprecedented in the country’s history and now posed a clear and present danger.

Announcing controversial changes to citizenship laws in light of the 110 known Australians to have joined the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the PM said dual nationals would be stripped of their Australian citizenship if found to be involved with terror groups.

Australian nationals would also face losing citizenship privileges including being allowed to return to Australia, access to consular services and prohibition of travel.

“Today, I am announcing that the Government will look at new measures to strengthen immigration laws, as well as new options for dealing with Australian citizens who are involved in terrorism,” the PM said in an address made at the Australian Federal Police headquarters in Canberra.

“We cannot allow bad people to use our good nature against us. “The Government will develop amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act so that we can revoke or suspend Australian citizenship in the case of dual nationals.

“It has long been the case that people who fight against Australia forfeit their citizenship.  “Australians who take up arms with terrorist groups, especially while Australian military personnel are engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, have sided against their country and should be treated accordingly.

“For Australian nationals, we are examining suspending some of the privileges of citizenship for individuals involved in terrorism.

“Those could include restricting the ability to leave or return to Australia, and access to consular services overseas, as well as access to welfare payments.”

The PM also confirmed that the extremist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir would be outlawed.  “Organisations and individuals blatantly spreading discord and division — such as Hizb ut-Tahrir — should not do so with impunity,” he said.

“Today, I can confirm that the Government will be taking action against hate preachers.  “This includes enforcing our strengthened terrorism advocacy laws.  It includes new programs to challenge terrorist propaganda and to provide alternative online material based on Australian values.  “And it will include stronger prohibitions on vilifying, intimidating or inciting hatred.

Releasing the findings of a review of the country’s national security architecture, Mr Abbott confirmed that ASIO was now monitoring 400 “high priority” national security cases with several thousand “leads” being investigated.

As revealed by The Daily Telegraph, Mr Abbott announced a new counterterrorism taskforce and co-ordinator to bring the various spy and policing agencies under one umbrella.

“Australia has entered a new, long-term era of heightened terrorism threat with a much more significant homegrown element,” he said.

“On all metrics, the threat to Australia is worsening. The number of foreign fighters is increasing, the number of known sympathisers and supporters of extremists is increasing, and the number of potential terrorists, including many who live in our midst, is rising as well.”

“We have seen the beheadings, the mass executions, the crucifixions and the sexual slavery in the name of religion.

“We know that these are testing times for everyone here — and for everyone sworn to protect democratic freedoms.

“We have seen our fellow Australians — people born and bred to live and let live — succumb to the lure of this death cult.

“Last September, the National Terrorist Threat level was lifted to High, which means a terrorist attack is likely.

“Critics said we were exaggerating.  “But since then, we have witnessed the frenzied attack on two police officers in Melbourne and the horror of the Martin Place siege.

Mr Abbott confirmed that at least 110 Australians have travelled overseas to join the death cult in Iraq and Syria.  “At least 20 of them, so far, are dead,” he said.

“I can’t promise that terrorist atrocities won’t ever again take place on Australian soil.  “But let me give you this assurance: “My Government will never underestimate the threat.  “We will make the difficult decisions that must be taken to keep you and your family safe.”


Let Baldwin speak: #Gamergate chalks up a victory in Australia

On US campuses, disinvitations are all the rage. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), calls to disinvite allegedly controversial speakers have increased fourfold since 2000 - a sad reflection of the intolerance of our times. Little wonder, then, that some young zealots are trying to extend their mania for censoring views they dislike beyond the realm of universities.

The most recent target of this was Adam Baldwin, the sci-fi and action star, who is due to appear at the Supanova Pop Culture Expo in Sydney and Perth this summer. An online petition calling on the organisers to revoke Baldwin’s invitation hit the news in Australia last month after it gained over 5,000 signatures.

The petitioners had plenty of reasons to dislike Baldwin. He is famous, not only for his acting roles, but also for his disdain for the professionally offended, a group he likes to call the ‘insects of the hour’. Most infuriating to his opponents, however, is the fact that he coined the term #Gamergate, a Twitter hashtag which has become the rallying point for one of the most effective fightbacks against cultural authoritarianism in recent memory. Gamers, united by the hashtag, have chalked up a string of anti-censorship victories over the past few months, beating back boycott attempts, reversing bans on ultra-violent games and ensuring blacklisted titles met their fundraising goals.

Now, it seems #Gamergaters can chalk up another victory. In response to the call to disinvite Baldwin, they created a counter-petition urging Supanova not to cave in to the professionally offended - and it worked. Writing on the Supanova Facebook page, event director Daniel Zachariou stated categorically that ‘excluding someone for their views, even if we don’t share them, goes completely against the spirit of the expo that we’ve presented all these years’. The post also acknowledged the importance of the rebel gamers, noting that, as well as the original petition, there was a ‘second group call[ing] just as loudly to make sure [Baldwin] remained our guest’. In a subtle swipe at the intolerance of political bigots, Zachariou added that ‘inclusiveness is at our very heart’.

Naturally, the bigots took to social media, creating the #SupaNoThankYou hashtag to voice their displeasure. But Twitter is no longer the sole property of the professionally offended, and gamers quickly took over the hashtag. It only took a few hours for the gamers to change the tone from stern outrage to nonsensical mirth-making.

It’s a shame that Supanova had to feel the pressure of a counter-petition before making its final decision. Political tolerance should always be the default option, and should not be overridden by the whims of vocal minorities. That said, the organisers should be applauded for their strong statement against political bigotry - it is an important message that will now serve as a healthy precedent.

And we must also, of course, applaud the gamers - that digital anti-censorship army that continues to impress. Who would have thought that hashtags and online petitions, the chief weapons of the new authoritarians, could be so easily co-opted?


Morrison should reconsider charities backdown

New facts have vindicated Kevin Andrews's strong position on abolishing the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC), just as his successor as minister for Social Services has backed away from that Coalition election promise. 

The ACNC boasts that it has deregistered more than 6,000 charities in its first two years of operation. But according to the Guardian Australia this week, only six charities have had their charitable status revoked for illegal activity or for failing to comply with regulations.

The rest-the vast majority-either chose to be removed from the charity register voluntarily or were deregistered because the commission could not locate them. The latter case usually means that the charity in question has ceased to exist. Charities go out of business all the time, and if a charity has no assets to dispose of, it often simply dissolves without bothering to notify the federal government of its closure.

The ACNC was an unprecedented intrusion on the part of the federal government into the realm of civil society. Never before had the not-for-profit sector been subject to its own dedicated federal regulator. You might assume, therefore, that this new regulator was created in response to some particular problem that indicated to the federal government that the sector was not sufficiently regulated before. But no such problem was ever pointed out.

As far back as 2012, Kevin Andrews asked proponents of the new charity commission to explain "the mischief that requires this new monolithic regulatory structure". My 2014 paper Independent Charities, Independent Regulators expressed the same scepticism.

The revelation that only six charities have been deregistered for bad behaviour proves that this scepticism was well warranted. If fraud and wrongdoing are such minor problems in the sector, surely we didn't a multimillion-dollar new regulator with unprecedented powers over charities' internal operations in order to police it.

Scott Morrison has announced that he has "no immediate plans" to continue his predecessor's push to replace the ACNC with a less burdensome body. He should reconsider.


Climate change will halve inflow to SA's biggest reservoir Mount Bold, Goyder Institute warns

More baseless prophecy.  The graph below shows that, if anything, rainfall has been INCREASING in recent years

The flow of water into the biggest reservoir in South Australia is expected to halve over the next century, scientists say.

The Goyder Institute has released climate change modelling for South Australia which paints a bleak picture.

The data includes modelling that Mount Bold reservoir, the state's largest water catchment just south of Adelaide, will see a big reduction in inflow.

As a changing climate brings hotter weather and less rainfall by the end of the century, the scientists say the reservoir will be dry at times.

Institute director Michele Akeroyd says the Onkaparinga catchment which feeds Mount Bold reservoir will change significantly in the next few years.

"The worst-case scenario indicates a halving of inflows into the Onkaparinga catchment over the century. That is against the high emissions scenario, and if you look at the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) data, we are actually tracking on that scenario at the moment," she said.

The SA climate change projections are the product of a five-year study. Previous reports took a statewide view, but the latest report details likely effects for various regions.

Goyder report warns:

SA average annual rainfall could decline 7.8 - 17.4 per cent by end of century.

The Goyder Institute said the changing climate would see the Goyder Line move further south.  The Goyder Line is a line drawn across maps of SA to indicate a rainfall boundary beyond which the inland is considered unsuitable for agriculture.  Rainfall north of the line is considered unreliable for cropping and only suitable for grazing.

The Goyder Institute said the modelling's best-case scenario was carbon emissions maintained at current levels. That would still reduce the inflow to Mount Bold reservoir by one-third by the end of the century.


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