Thursday, August 23, 2012

New law to control cyber data

The Gillard government seems to have sneaked through the sort of internet laws that have been rejected even in Europe.  The scope of the laws is however limited so they appear not to have rung any alarm bells.  That the laws can be abused, however, there can be no doubt

NEW laws will allow authorities to collect and monitor Australians' internet records, including their web-browsing history, social media activity and emails.

But the laws, which will specifically target suspected cyber criminals, do not go as far as separate proposed laws designed to retain every Australian internet user's internet history for two years in the name of national security.

Under the laws passed yesterday, Australian state and federal police will have the power to compel telcos and internet service providers to retain the internet records of people suspected of cyber-based crimes, including fraud and child pornography. Only those records made after the request will be retained, but law enforcement agencies will be prevented from seeing the information until they have secured a warrant.

It is believed that while some telcos and internet service providers keep data for up to a week, others routinely delete users' data daily, frustrating the ability of authorities to gather evidence against suspects.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the laws would help police track cyber criminals globally and give authorities the power to find people engaged in forgery, fraud, child pornography and infringement of copyright and intellectual property. They also will allow Australia to join the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, which has 34 members.

"Cyber crime is a growing threat that touches all aspects of modern life," Ms Roxon said. "It poses complex policy and law enforcement challenges, partly due to the transnational nature of the internet."

But Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam said the laws went further than the European convention, and that the government had failed to explain why the far-reaching powers were necessary.

The European convention states that the treaty is not focused on data retention but on targeting law enforcement.

Australia's new laws mean information can be kept at least until police get a warrant.

Senator Ludlam was particularly concerned the laws would allow data that implicates Australians in crimes that carry penalties of three years or more - including the death penalty - to be collected and analysed.

"The European Treaty doesn't require ongoing collection and retention of communications, but the Australian bill does," he said in a statement. "It also leaves the door open for Australia to assist in prosecutions, which could lead to the death penalty overseas."

The deadline for submissions to a parliamentary inquiry into the separate proposed national security laws closed on Monday and a parliamentary committee will report on the issue at a date to be decided.

Those proposals would allow the telephone and internet data of every Australian to be retained for up to two years and intelligence agencies would be given increased access to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.


Empty education promises from the Federal Left

Who could ever deny our children the best education possible? It is of critical importance and Australia can offer no greater commitment to ensure the prosperity of the nation and its next generation.

But in this week's blizzard of words over the future of the Gonski report into education funding, the government is pulling a cruel hoax on Australia.

The government does not have the $26 billion required over a forward estimates period to cover its airy promises of better teachers and no school being left worse off in real terms.

All we have is a government addicted to making big announcements and locking in spending like there is no tomorrow, when in reality, all it is offering is false hope.

Recent history in Britain is a prime example of such false hope. The former Labour government led by Gordon Brown left David Cameron's government a crushing legacy of unfunded commitments with a series of unachievable promises.

Labor here are following the lead from their cousins on the other side of the world. Take, for instance, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, promised Labor would deliver. What Gillard and Labor have actually done is announce four NDIS trial sites. This is a long way short of committing the $8 billion that will be required to adequately service the NDIS every year.

If the government has really launched the NDIS, as it claims to have done, then the cost is not accounted for in its budget. Labor's only financial commitment is $1 billion for trial sites.

The best we get from the Prime Minister is an admission the government will have to make "substantial savings" to achieve her outcomes.

It was hard not to laugh when she said on Sunday "you've got to be prudent with every dollar, and we are". This is a Labor government that has made waste and mismanagement an artform, such as in the failed border protection policy that has incurred a $4.7 billion blowout or the $50 billion national broadband network that is a massive drain on the nation's resources.

The truth is that Labor will have no choice but to raise taxes to pay for its gargantuan promises. The Labor senator Doug Cameron said as much a fortnight ago when he said it was "inconceivable that this amount of government expenditure on building a good society could be funded from existing revenue".

In effect, the Treasury Secretary, Martin Parkinson, and now his predecessor Ken Henry are in agreement; Labor cannot continue checking expenditure against the nation's credit card. In the end, someone has to pay the bill.

With an election not due for possibly 15 months, the Coalition will not be making promises it cannot keep.

If a Coalition government is elected we have pledged, based on present information, a budget surplus in our first year and each year after that.

Unlike Labor, the Coalition is not hiding from funding its promises. Savings measures such as a reduction in the number of public servants have already been announced, with many areas of policy already costed and ready to deliver at the appropriate time. And if we are elected, a commission of audit into government finances will immediately begin a top-to-bottom review of government administration, identifying areas for immediate cuts to put an end to government waste and mismanagement.

Labor wants us to believe it will deliver a budget surplus in 2012-13 - a wafer thin $1.5 billion or just 0.1 per cent of gross domestic product. Contrast that with their record; just a year ago they forecast a $23 billion deficit for the 2011-12 financial year, which then turned out to be $44 billion. Four programs alone - schools funding, the NDIS, border protection and new submarines for the Australian navy - account for almost $75 billion in unfunded government promises.

Much rests on what will be revealed in the mid-year economic fiscal outlook due in November, and more importantly the budget in May.

Labor has introduced or increased 26 taxes since it came to power - including a carbon tax that was never supposed to happen.

Now the public has to suffer the indignity of a government providing nothing but false hope, for genuinely needed government programmes that have been promised but remain unfunded.


Australian public broadcaster  on "crumbling" climate  scepticism

This article, by ABC's environment editor, Sara Phillips, encapsulates all that is wrong with the national broadcaster's treatment of the climate debate. Written, as always, from a position of belief, and institutionally critical of any dissent, Phillips attempts to show that scepticism is crumbling in the face of ever-mounting evidence to the contrary:
American physicist Richard Muller is one climate sceptic who has recently changed his mind after reviewing the evidence.

Muller crunched a bunch of numbers to do with global temperatures and announced in the New York Times that he is a "converted sceptic". It was this opinion piece in arguably the world's most influential paper that set tongues wagging about climate change all over again.

Muller had previously been claimed by those unconvinced by the science as one of their own, because he questioned the validity of Mann's 'hockey stick' graph, used by Al Gore in his film An Inconvenient Truth.

Muller was never a sceptic, and there are plenty of rusted on believers who have problems with both Mann's hockey stick and AIT, which is nothing more than a propaganda film. Muller's subsequent evidence-free claim of attribution to human causes has led to widespread ridicule from within the warmist community.

She then attempts to frame Bjorn Lomborg as a convert from scepticism, using some highly selective quotes from past newspaper interviews:
Bjorn Lomborg is another high-profile climate sceptic who changed his mind after reviewing the evidence. He now believes climate change is real, but that it won't be the calamity predicted by some.

However, Lomborg directly addressed his alleged switch in a Guardian article cited indirectly:
He reiterates that he has never denied anthropogenic global warming, and insists that he long ago accepted the cost of damage would be between 2% and 3% of world wealth by the end of this century. This estimate is the same, he says, as that quoted by Lord Stern, whose report for the British government argued that the world should spend 1-2% of gross domestic product on tackling climate change to avoid future damage.

He has never doubted the role of CO2, but has rightly questioned the cost-benefit analysis of the proposed solutions. Phillips then describes Alan Jones as "frothing" to David Karoly. Whether you agree with Jones or not, Phillips would never describe a consensus climate scientist as "frothing", a highly inappropriate term to use. But it just helps to paint the picture of "deniers" as being deluded and crazy.

Of course there is a spectrum of views on climate - as she points out - which range from outright disbelief that temperatures are rising at all to acceptance of a measurable human signal in the global temperature record. However, she portrays this range of views in a very simplistic manner in an attempt to ridicule those who dare question the consensus.

Her conclusion appears to be that scepticism is on the wane and that "denial" is harder to sustain. But her view, distorted as it is by the prism of belief in AGW, fails to appreciate that the majority of sceptics accept the role of CO2 and that there is a human contribution to warming.

However, the reality is that there are problems with the surface temperature record, and there are problems with feedbacks in climate models, and there are serious questions to be answered regarding the proposed mitigation policies in response. Nothing in Muller's alleged conversion changes any of those issues.

More importantly, she completely ignores the fact that, due in part to an endless barrage of scare stories which have failed to eventuate, scepticism of the alarmist claims of The Cause™ has increased substantially over the past decade, to the point where a significant proportion of the public are now highly suspicious of the pronouncements of climate scientists and government advisers such as Tim Flannery.

Unfortunately, the article is just the latest in a very long line of examples of ABC's climate groupthink, where the utterances of climate scientists are beyond reproach and questioning of the consensus is frowned upon. That is not how science works: the motto, which the ABC, our taxpayer-funded and supposedly impartial national broadcaster, would do well to remember, is "question everything".


Queensland Parliament passes bill to cut mining red tape

A BILL that cuts mining red tape has passed in Queensland Parliament, despite criticisms about the length of the consultation period.

The Mines Legislation (Streamlining) Amendment Bill 2012 was put forward by the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps on Wednesday night.

Some aspects of the bill loosen restrictions around infastructure for coal seam gas mining.

Shane Kunth, the member for Dalrymple and a member of Katter's Australia Party, hit out at the consultation timeframe and said some key stakeholders, such as farmers and the agricultural industry, only had four days to submit their views on the bill's complex changes.

Mr Kunth read out in Parliament a submission by General Manager of Agforce, Drew Wagner, which said he believed the consultation timeframe was 'tantamount to negligence'.

Independant Member for Nicklin Peter Wellington levelled similiar criticisms at the bill and said he was "so disappointed that so many Queenslanders are not seeing what's happening in this the 54th Parliament".

"If this is standard of consultation this government is happy with, look I shake my head," Mr Wellington said.

Many members of the Liberal National Party defended how the bill was introduced, pointing out that the Bligh Government introduced parts of the bill in its early stages in November 2011.

"In these early months of government it would not be feasible to give a six month consultation period to every piece of legislation before tabelling it for debate," the member for Maryborough Anne Maddern said.

In his closing statement, Mr Cripps hit back at the member for South Brisbane's criticims of the bill, pointing out that Jackie Trad hadn't atttended a previous consultation on the bill and was therefore 'hypocritical' in her criticisms of the community consultations for the bill.

The bill focused on the tenure adminstration system and aims to reduce the time taken to decide tenure.

"Current resource tenure processes are antiquated, inefficent and impose unneccessary adminstrative and regulatory burdens on industry and on government. This needlessly wastes considerable government and indsutry time and resources,' Mr Cripps said.

Mr Cripps said MyMinesOnline, a website put forward by the bill, would streamline tenure management, bringing it into 'a more transparent online environment'.

"The admendaments in the bill will help transform tenure management from an outdated manual, paper-based system into a faster, modern and more transparent online environment, through MyMinesOnline," Mr Cripps said.

The bill was introduced into Parliament on August 2.


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