Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Australia tackling online bullies

If American media companies think that they can ignore Australian law, they should reflect on the humbling of Dow Jones a few years back.

They uttered a serious defamation of Australian miner Joe Gutnick in one of their publications and thought they were protected by America's permissive libel laws

But since the libel was of an Australian, Australian law had jurisdiction and Dow Jones eventually settled, costing them a heap

Harmful online abuse would be stripped from websites under a new government proposal to squash adult cyber bullying.

The eSafety Commissioner would be given the power to direct platforms to take down abuse, when they have failed to respond to complaints.

The online watchdog’s capacity to unmask the identities behind anonymous or fake accounts used to conduct abuse or share illegal content will also be beefed up.

Cyber Safety Minister Paul Fletcher said the new scheme was a world-leading online safety framework for seriously harmful content.

“Overwhelmingly what victims of serious cyber abuse tell us is they want the material taken down but that can be very hard to achieve,” Mr Fletcher told the ABC.

“The eSafety Commissioner has done that effectively with cyber-bullying against children and we’re now going to extend that to cyber-abuse directed against adults.”

Under the new Online Safety Bill, out for consultation on Wednesday, services will be required to remove image-based abuse and cyber bullying content within 24 hours of receiving a notice from the commissioner.

Companies that don’t comply will face maximum civil penalties of $550,000, while individuals will be subject to fines of up to $111,000.

Websites streaming online crisis events such as the Christchurch terrorist attacks and extreme violent content will also be able to be blocked for a limited time, under the commissioner’s request to internet service providers.

Protections for children will also be strengthened to enable bullying material to be removed from online services frequented by children.

Mr Fletcher said the measures recognised adults had greater resilience than children when it came to abusive content, and appropriately balanced the importance of freedom of speech.

The bill will also include legislated “basic online safety expectations” for digital platforms to establish a new benchmark for industry to keep Australians safe.

Under these, the eSafety Commissioner will be able to seek an explanation from the platforms about how they will respond to online harms under new transparency reporting requirements.

The industry will also be required to do more to keep users safe under updated codes.

“The internet has brought great social, educational and economic benefits,” Mr Fletcher said. “But just as a small proportion of human interactions go wrong offline, so too are there risks online.”

Virtue signalling and the hatred of coal

There has been more than one virus attacking the fibre of our society over the past 12 months as virtue signalling has leapt from business to business and executives have scrambled to join the race to be “woke.”

We are all now expected to conform to whatever shallow, vacuous position is currently in vogue and embrace every demand made by the chattering class lest we be condemned on social media.

Mackay small business man David Hartigan is the latest casualty of this crusade by the corporate world to beat its collective chest and show the world it has a social conscience.

His company provides engineering advice to mining companies. “Good on you, mate,” you might say, for creating jobs and doing your bit to help grow the national economy.

Not so in the world of the woke with his insurance company telling him that he cannot make more than 40 per cent of his income from thermal coal mining clients if he wants coverage.

This, of course, is so the insurance company can proclaim to the world that it cares about climate change

The large number of financial institutions now too frightened to cover mining businesses has lessened competition and allowed those still in the business to ramp up their premiums, Mr Hartigan’s increasing by 300 per cent over the past four years.

Can someone please explain to me how screwing a small businessman in regional Queensland is going to save the planet.

It is stupidity writ large and goes hand-in-hand with the insistence by the woke warriors that no one is building coal fired power plants anymore, thus ignoring the inconvenient truth that Germany commissioned one this year, Japan will build 20 over the next five years and the Chinese are building them faster than you can count.

The truth? They can’t handle the truth, preferring to project an image of heartfelt care confected by a marketing consultant while damaging the economy.

Whatever happened to that once treasured Australian trait of declaring in a loud voice that if it looks like bull…t and smells like bull…t, the chances are it’s bull…t? Have we lost the ability to mock poseurs and impostors who wear their false virtue like a robe?

Farmers launch climate change court challenge against natural gas project

The challenge, filed on Tuesday, also argued the approval for the gas extraction part of the project — which involves the drilling of 850 gas wells — should have also assessed the impacts of the transmission pipeline, which would be needed to transport the gas.

"Our client will therefore ask the court to find that the approval for the Narrabri Gas Project is invalid," said Elaine Johnson, EDO director of legal strategy.

One of the farmers involved in the challenge, Scott McCalman, said "farmers in our region are already being forced to live with worsening droughts, devastating heatwaves and extreme weather".

"The approval of damaging projects like this that will fuel global warming even further just means more hardship for rural communities," he said.

The project gained new momentum in January 2020 when an agreement was signed between NSW and the Federal Government, setting a target of injecting 70 petajoules of gas each year into the market in NSW.

That was exactly the amount the Narrabri Gas Project was likely to produce.

Then in June, NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes backed the project, arguing it was "critical for energy security and reliability in NSW".

In September, the state's Independent Planning Commission gave the project the green light with 134 conditions to protect the environment, and in November, the Federal Government approved the project, again with conditions.

Thousands of submissions

The Independent Planning Commission received about 23,000 submissions to its environmental impact assessment process, with 98 per cent of them opposed.

About 80 per cent of those submissions were organised by conservation groups, but in addition to those, there were thousands of submissions opposing the project.

Among the main concerns expressed by those opposed to the project were potential impacts on water resources in the area.

The gas drilling will be near important aquifers relied on by farmers and towns, and some experts said it wasn't clear whether the project could avoid damaging them.

A spokesman for the NSW Independent Planning Commission said in a statement: "The Independent Planning Commission has been served papers filed in the Land and Environment Court for a judicial review of the Commission's determination of the Narrabri Gas Project.

"The matter is listed before the Court on 12 March 2021. No further comment will be made at this stage."

A conservative ministerial appointmen

Scott Morrison’s pre-Christmas ministerial shuffle has passed without much notice — unsurprising given that almost nobody in the country would be able to name any of the affected MPs

For the afficionados, however, there was one minor elevation on which a marker should be placed. Queensland LNP Senator Amanda Stoker, who was given George Brandis’ Senate seat when he retired in 2018, has risen from the backbench to the role of assistant minister to the attorney-general.

Stoker is what the media like to call a “firebrand”, and she has noisily established herself as an up-and-coming member of the religious right wing of the Coalition. She is anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia, anti-transgender and considers sexuality to be a “choice”. You get the idea.

In her new junior role, Stoker will not have any material power, but she will have a platform for pushing her ideological agenda.

Part of that agenda was revealed in a speech Stoker gave in June to the ultra-conservative Samuel Griffith Society in which she gave clear voice to a cherished desire of the far right: to overtly stack the High Court with conservative appointees.

The US religious right has been assiduous for many years in its plan to take control of America’s social fabric by filling the Supreme Court with judges who share its convictions. By the chance that Donald Trump got to appoint three judges in four years, they’ve achieved a 6-3 split between conservatives and “liberals”.

Stoker is a big admirer of Trump’s achievement, and is explicit about her wish to replicate it here. She has selected her target — a High Court decision that is anathema to the conservative mind — as the catalyst for her call to arms.

The case is that of Daniel Love and Brendan Thoms, two men of Aboriginal descent who were not Australian citizens. The High Court by a 4:3 majority earlier this year determined that Aboriginal Australians in their position cannot be “aliens” under Australian law and therefore cannot be deported.

The majority’s reasoning was based on an extension of the logic of Mabo — that Aboriginal people’s connection to Australia predates and transcends English colonisation and all that has followed, such that it is a nonsense to suggest that they could ever be alien to this land.

That made Stoker cross-eyed with anger, as it did the whole conservative right. She considers it “judicial activism”, the putting of words into the constitution that the founding fathers did not contemplate.

That identifies the battle ground for bench-stacking — the contest between “activist” and “originalist” judges, the same as in the US. The conservative argument, promoted by Stoker, is that what we want are judges who won’t rule according to their personal moral codes, politics or preferences, but who will just do as the express language of the constitution says. If the constitution gives bad law, then it can be changed by referendum. In the meantime, judges should apply it as it was written.

Accordingly, Stoker said in her speech, conservatives need to get their act together and find judges for the High Court who can be relied upon to be strictly black letter. It’d be a quicker process here than in America, because our judges must retire at 70 (and there are only seven of them).




1 comment:

Paul said...

It will be interesting to see how the definition of "online bullying" evolves over time, and how quickly such evolution takes place, and who it appears to favour and protect.