Australian Politics 2018-06-18 15:50:00

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ZEG

In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is overjoyed at the thought of the ABC being abolished





Budget bonanza: Free hampers gifted to new parents to ease cost of living

Baby boxes originated in Finland and were widely used by the Finnish government to help impoverished mothers amid the difficult economic circumstances immediately after WWII. Finland is now of course a prosperous country but Finnish mothers still look forwad to getting their box.

The practice has been much imitated in other places in the UK and the USA but usually seems to be discontinued after a time on cost grounds.  It is argued that the mothers could be better assisted in other ways.  But while it lasts it should be popular and the package described below does seem well thought-out



EVERY baby born in NSW will receive a free “lifesaving” hamper containing a sleeping bag, wrap, nappies, change mat and children’s book to help ease the burden on new parents.

Valued at around $150, the “baby bundle” is part of a $157 million parenting package to be unveiled on Tuesday when Treasurer Dominic Perrottet hands down the last state budget ­before the election in March.

With polling showing cost of living dominating voter concerns, relief for families is set to be a key theme of the budget, which will also focus on funding key infrastructure projects.

The hampers, which also include washable breastpads, a thermometer, sanitiser, toothbrush and nappy rash cream, are meant to encourage parents to read key health messages contained within the package, covering topics such as dental care, breastfeeding, child-proofing a home and a child’s key developmental stages.

The sleeveless sleeping bag is ­designed to help reduce the risk of bedclothes covering a baby’s face, a contributor to sudden infant death syndrome, while the children’s book is aimed at encouraging parents to start reading to their babies from the very beginning of their lives.

The items will be in addition to the child health and development “blue book” that has been handed out to new parents since 1988.

Around 90,000 babies are born in NSW each year.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the baby bundle was designed to encourage parents to consume important health messages.

“It will not only help reduce some of the initial costs faced by new ­parents, but it will also support positive health and development outcomes for babies and their families,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Other measures in the parenting package will include funds to expand the Newborn Bloodspot Screening program, with NSW becoming the first state to test for the life-threatening disease Congenital Adrenal ­Hyperplasia.

The government will also allocate $9.3 million for 100 new midwives, $4.3 million to pay for more nurse home visits, $5 million towards childhood cancer research and $2 million to improve play spaces for children in, mostly regional, paediatric wards.

Pregnant women and mothers with severe mental illness will also benefit from $1.1 million funding towards increased specialist peri-natal and infant mental health services.

The package will include $2.2 million for the Tresillian parent advice organisation to establish five Family Care Centre Hubs across regional NSW and the government will fund an update of its booklet Thinking Of Having A Baby. There will also be a $1.5 million boost to improve transport for pregnant women who need higher levels of care.

Mr Perrottet said cost of living is a key theme of the budget, which had shifted its focus to invest in people.

“Smaller investments can sometimes make a real difference in ­people’s lives, such as this baby-care bundle,” he said. “We want to make sure parents get the help they need in a heartbeat, which is why we are ramping up mental health services, midwife numbers and home visits.

“As we know, those first few days, while joyous, can also be tough.”

SOURCE 






Treasury finds $10bn hole in Shorten’s retirees plan

Bill Shorten is facing a $10 billion black hole in his key savings plans to axe franking credit refunds for retirees, with a Treasury study confirming Labor had failed to calculate the expected changes in investment strategies among ­people hit by the tax changes.

The Treasury modelling, based on a two-month external review of the policy, revealed investors and retirees were likely to change their behaviour, resulting in $1bn less revenue being collected over the budget forward estimates than the opposition had banked on.

This immediate shortfall rises to a $9.9bn black hole over the 10-year period with Treasury calculating the policy would raise $45.8bn rather than the $55.7bn Labor claimed.

The modelling suggested ­people with larger refunds and self-managed super funds were likely to shift their investments into other income streams, ­including foreign equities.

The discovery of the funding shortfall in one of Labor’s key tax measures comes as the opposition this week will be forced to decide whether to back the government’s full $140bn 10-year income tax plan or face accusations of denying low-income earners a tax break from July 1.

As parliament resumes today for the final sitting fortnight ­before the July 28 by-elections, the government is expected to force a vote on both its income tax cut and company tax cut plans as well as passing key national security legislation.

The government will refuse to buckle to Labor’s demands that it separate the tax component for high-income earners, leaving the crossbench to break the impasse when a Senate committee on the tax plan reports back today, with debate due to begin immediately.

The opposition’s own tax and spending measures will be ­exploited by the government following the release of the Treasury costings of Labor’s franking credit policy. The modelling that would form the basis of Treasury’s ­advice to Labor if it won government was conducted externally by Treasury with independent ­advisers. It found that Labor’s budget projections had not taken into account significant behavioural changes.

It puts Treasury at odds with the Parliamentary Budget Office, which also provided costings for Labor’s policy, which the opposition has refused to release.

The behavioural modelling found self-managed super funds would rebalance portfolios away from franked dividend-paying shares to “other forms of income to compensate for the fall in after-tax returns on shares in the ­absence of refundability”. These were expected to include fixed-­income assets, property trusts, managed funds or offshore equities.

“The main mechanism by which individuals are expected to respond is through rebalancing their portfolios away from franked dividend paying shares,” the report said.

The report said it assumed the behavioural response increased with SMSF wealth to reflect ­factors such as the quality of ­financial advice. “This response increases over time to reflect ­investors’ shift away from investments previously attracting refunds in favour of alternative investment strategies,” it said.

Labor had originally claimed that its policy to abolish franking credit refunds would amount to $59bn in savings over 10 years, which the government claimed was a tax grab on retirees.

Mr Shorten was forced to ­rewrite the policy within weeks of its release by exempting pensions and welfare recipients after it was discovered many would be caught in the tax net. This reduced the number to $55.7bn over the decade and from $11.4bn to $10.7bn over the forward estimates.

The Treasury modelling has shaved a further $1.1 billion off the costings over the forward estimates, reducing Labor’s real take to $9.6bn and potentially undermining its spending commitments. It also revised the longer-term numbers down to $45.8bn, leaving Labor’s policy with a $9.9bn black hole.

Scott Morrison accused the ­opposition of building its entire spending program on a “house of cards” and compared it with the previous Labor’s government’s mining tax, which failed to recoup a fraction of the revenue it was ­designed to.

“This just highlights the vagaries and uncertainty of Labor’s revenues,” the Treasurer said.

“Treasury’s costing of Labor’s retiree tax proposal confirms concerns raised at the time Labor ­announced their proposal that they had overestimated the revenue they expected to collect. Labor’s retiree tax is far and away Labor’s biggest revenue measure over the forward estimates.”

Mr Morrison said Treasury’s advice confirmed that Labor’s revenue estimates for the retiree tax over the medium term were “particularly unreliable”.

“Yet Labor will seek to bank these unrealistic estimates and will bake into the budget long-term spending commitments,” he said.

“The government requested the costing and is releasing it in the interest of the public debate because yet again Labor chose not to release the detailed costing of their proposal by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office.”

Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen has admitted that the opposition always expected a “tough debate” over the policy.

Labor has stood by the numbers despite having to revise them down less than two weeks after the policy was first released in March.

SOURCE 






PC brigade in a hate speech class of their own

The politically correct class in Australia has always been particularly zealous in its defence of provisions such as section 18C of the federal Racial Discrimination Act and similar provisions in the anti-discrimination laws of the states and territories.

These statutes make it unlawful to publish material that, in many cases, does no more than offend the sensibilities of various groups in the community. What these laws do is place a higher value on hurt feelings than on the rigorous public debate of political, social and economic questions.

It is under one of those laws that the Nine Network and Sonia Kruger face legal proceedings, starting ­tomorrow, alleging racial vilification. In a morning TV show, Kruger attempted to discuss the question of whether there was any correlation between Muslim immigration and terrorist incidents in various countries.

When it comes to its own participation in public debate, however, the politically correct class often has few limits on offensive and insulting statements.

When two members of the Senate proposed the amendment of section 18C in 2016, they were described by the chief political correspondent of The Sydney Morning Herald as “hate-speech apologists”. In addition one was said to be “a boorish, supercilious know-all with the empathy of a Besser block” and the other “an absurdist fringe-dweller”. Both were “self-promoting misanthropes”.

About the same time, in a ­Herald cartoon of Malcolm Turnbull speaking at the UN about refugees, he was shown as wearing three badges inscribed with: “Hate makes the world go around”, “Hate will find a way”, and “All you need is hate”.

One of the most flamboyant examples of this sort of rhetoric occurred last March when Julian Burnside posted on Twitter an image of the federal Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, in a Nazi uniform. This was a particularly striking example because Burnside is not from the fringes of Australian society. He is the product of Melbourne’s most prestigious private school, a Queen’s Counsel at the Victorian Bar and a member of the Order of Australia.

It would have been unthinkable in the fairly recent past that such an establishment figure would be involved in these kinds of guttersnipe exchanges, but the tenor of public debate in Australia has certainly changed in a relatively short space of time.

More recently there were the comments of a history professor at Sydney University who asked whether The Australian’s Greg Sheridan and Chris Kenny “think that Western countries are succumbing to a poisonous cocktail of multiculturalism, Muslim immigration, political correctness and cultural Marxism”, and added: “It seems that, much like Anders Breivik and Steve Bannon, they do.”

Putting aside this categorisation of former Trump staffer Bannon, Breivik was the person who murdered 77 people on one day in Norway in July 2011. This material was published in, of all places, the ABC’s religion and ethics website, but the reference to Breivik was later removed by the ABC. The professor said: “I think some people have overreached themselves with their incendiary rhetoric.” Quite so.

Sydney University staff have no monopoly on inflammatory statements. An edition of the student newspaper in May carried a photo on the cover of a female ­suicide bomber who had killed many Israelis, describing her as a “martyr” in the struggle against “Israeli colonisation”.

When the Australian Union of Jewish Students complained, the student representative council passed a motion condemning them and congratulating those who had worked on the newspaper “for their brave and highly defensible cover depicting a pro-Palestine freedom fighter”.

The domination of universities in Australia by the politically correct class is, of course, not a recent phenomenon. But their influence is just as pervasive in most public institutions and many private ones, including the boards of many public companies, often seemingly more concerned with taking a political stance than making a profit for their shareholders.

What is interesting, however, is the contrast between this group’s view of themselves as the moral guardians of society and their ferocious intolerance for anyone who expresses a view contrary to their own. It is as if those contrary views represent a threat to their role as moral guardians, whereas they occupy most of the commanding heights of Australian ­society and are, unfortunately, not at all threatened.

One thing they have done, however, is to lower the tone of public debate with virulent attacks on their opponents that reflect the deep intensity of their sanctimonious opinions.

SOURCE 






Cash is no longer king in Australia

More consumers are dumping cash and cheques when it comes to paying up, and are using cards and their smartphones instead.
Updated Updated 1 hour ago
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Australian consumers are accelerating their shift towards digital payments and away from cash and cheques, with new figures showing paying by card has surged while people make fewer trips to the ATM for cash.

Consumers made more than 8.3 billion card payments in 2017 - equal to a rate of almost 23 million transactions a day, according to a report from electronic payments industry group AusPayNet.

The bulk of those card payments - 5.6 billion - were made on debit cards, AusPayNet said, with credits tending to be used on more expensive purchases but still showing an increase in volume and value.

At the same time the number of cheques used fell almost 20 per cent to 89.7 million for the year, and the number of ATM withdrawals made fell 5.9 per cent to 610.1 million.

AusPayNet CEO Leila Fourie said the high uptake of technology and internet use in Australia, where almost 90 per cent of the population own a smartphone, was behind the increase in new ways of conducting transactions.

"This is driving uptake in digital payments and laying down a powerful base for the next wave of payments innovation," she said.

AusPayNet said more 60 per cent of consumers with a smartphone used their device to make payments.

Among the technological shifts aiding the uptake of digital payments is the New Payments Platform launched in February - a digital and near-real-time payments system allowing instant peer-to-peer payments.

AusPayNet also found Australia has a relatively high number of EFTPOS terminals and low number of ATMs compared to other countries.

Australia has 39,337 EFTPOS terminals per million inhabitants and 1,355 ATMs, while Canada has 38,892 EFTPOS terminals and 1,888 ATMS, the report said.

Australia ranked above Canada, Italy, Singapore and the UK on EFTPOS point concentration, while it lagged Korea, Canada, Belgium and Russia on the ATM count.

SOURCE 

Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here





"Meh": The Market’s Response to the "Most Important Week of 2018"

Last week, we listed three possible outcomes for how the trajectory of the S&P 500 would evolve after we reached the effective end of 2018-Q2.

Well, we reached the effective end of 2018-Q2 with a quadruple witching event on Friday, 15 June 2018, and we may have gotten an indication of where investors are investors will be shifting their forward-looking attention next: toward the distant future quarter of 2019-Q1.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2018Q2 - Standard Model - Snapshot on 15 Jun 2018

Truth be told, the jury is still out on whether that is really the case. It is still quite possible that investors are splitting their attention between 2019-Q1 and the nearer term future quarter of 2018-Q4, where they may just be putting a higher weight on the expectations associated with the more distant future quarter in setting today's stock prices. Which wouldn't be a bad outcome for investors because at least it doesn't coincide with a decline in stock prices.

As for the news of the week, which was described in some quarters as "the most important week of 2018", the market's reaction to all that news could be summarized as "meh", where even a new round of tariffs being imposed by the U.S. and China on goods exported by each to the other on Friday didn't contribute much more than a trivial level of noise to the market on the last day of the second full week of June 2018.

Monday, 11 June 2018
Tuesday, 12 June 2018
Wednesday, 13 June 2018
Thursday, 14 June 2018
Friday, 15 June 2018

Barry Ritholtz succinctly summarized Week 2 of June 2018's economic and market events, finding 8 positives and 5 negatives. If that doesn't intrigue you, there were also 5 "m/o/m" data points and one that was "w/o/w". (You really have to dig for points of interest on those "meh" weeks!)

Australian Politics 2018-06-17 15:44:00

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Professor ‘bragged about burying bad science’ on 3M chemicals

I am a bit reluctant to enter this old controversy again but I was amused that the Left-leaning Fairfax press is critical of "burying bad science".  I guess it is because you can be reasonably sure that any science the Left likes -- from Lysenko to global warming -- is in fact bad science. So they don't like it being buried.  As the replicability crisis has revealed, bad science is rife and in great need of exposure.

But I suppose that is just a quibble.  At issue is the basic toxicological dictum that the toxicity is in the dose.  There is no doubt that PFOS chemicals can be bad for you but at what dosage? Even water can kill you if you drink enough of it.

But there is a lot of "science" papers and publicity seeking authors that ignore that.  They excitedly announce some finding of bad effects in rats and then go on to utter large warnings about the threat to human health -- without considering the dose involved or even using very large doses.  Those are the bad papers that Prof. Giesy would have tried to stop.

That the chemical concerned gets into people and animals one way or another has been known for decades.  But the concentrations found are extremely minute -- measured in a few parts per billion. So how toxic is it?  It certainly seems to be seriously toxic to a range of animals but evidence of toxicity to people is slight.  And don't forget that this has been under investigation for a long time.

Additionally, it has been estimated that there is by now some PFOS in every American, so bad effects should be pretty evident by now.  But they are not.

Note that the controversy is about PFOS in general use -- as part of domestic items.  People who are for one reason or another exposed to exceptionally high levels of it could well have problems. And there do appear to have been some instances of that.

But the scare has been sufficient for the American manufacturers to stop production of the stuff and the levels in people have gone into steady decline.  So if it is a problem, it has been dealt with. 

The ethics of Prof. Giesy taking money from a chemical company is another matter.  It is the sort of thing that is widely challenged by the Left as showing bad faith or corruption but it is very widely done and evidence of the practice being corrupt is rarely offered.  The participants argue that the academics provide useful advice so should be paid for it

A reputation for integrity is essential to a scientist and scientists are very careful about doing anything that could risk that reputation.  So they make sure that what they do follows ethical guidelines.  So you will note at the very end of the article below that Prof. Giesy has been cleared of unethical behaviour by his university.  Compared to that clearance the insinuations below should be treated as dubious assertions designed to sell papers



As a leading international authority on toxic chemicals, Professor John P. Giesy is in the top percentile of active authors in the world.

His resume is littered with accolades, from being named in the Who’s Who of the World to receiving the Einstein Professor Award from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Professor Giesy was credited with being the first scientist to discover toxic per- and poly-fluoroalkyl [PFAS] chemicals in the environment, and with helping to persuade chemical giant 3M Company to abandon their manufacture.

But Fairfax Media can now reveal that Professor Giesy was accused of covertly doing 3M’s bidding in a widespread international campaign to suppress academic research on the dangers of PFAS.

A trove of internal company documents has been made public for the first time following a $US850 million ($1.15 billion) legal settlement between the company and Minnesota Attorney-General Lori Swanson. They suggest that Professor Giesy was one weapon in an arsenal of tactics used by the company to - in a phrase coined by 3M - “command the science” on the chemicals.

The documents have allowed the state to chronicle how 3M, over decades, allegedly misled the scientific community about the presence of its chemicals in the public’s blood, undermined studies linking the chemicals with cancer and scrambled to selectively fund research to be used as a “defensive barrier to litigation”.

Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, John Linc Stine, says there is a sense of violation in the community after 3M disposed of chemicals that have now seeped into the groundwater.

Experts have branded the strategies nearly identical to those used historically by the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries.

At least 90 communities across Australia are being investigated for elevated levels of the contaminants, including 10 in Sydney.

The Australian government is aggressively defending a growing number of class actions from towns where the chemicals were used for decades in fire retardants on military bases, the runoff tainting the soil and water of surrounding homes.

The Department of Health maintains there is “no consistent evidence” that the chemicals can cause “important” health effects such as cancer. In arguing this, its experts have made reference to the work of 3M scientists, who insist the chemicals are not harmful at the levels found in the blood of humans.

On Saturday, Fairfax Media exposed cancer cluster fears centring on a high school in Oakdale, Minnesota, in America’s upper mid-west, a few blocks from 3M’s global headquarters and where the water was contaminated with PFAS.

3M has vigorously denied the allegations. It did not accept liability in February, when it reached a settlement on the courthouse steps over alleged damage to Minnesota’s natural resources and drinking water.

A spokesperson said: “The vast body of scientific evidence, which consists of decades of research conducted by independent third parties and 3M, does not show that these chemistries negatively impact human health at current exposure levels”.

But several leading public health agencies in the United States have sounded warnings to the contrary.

In 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency found the “weight of evidence” supported the conclusion that the chemicals were a human health hazard, warning that exposure over certain levels could result in immune and developmental effects and cancer.

The US National Toxicology Program found they were “presumed to be an immune hazard” based on high levels of evidence from animal studies and a moderate level from humans.

Immune suppression - usually as a result of conditions such as organ transplant or HIV - is known to increase the risk of several types of cancer by making the immune system less able to detect and destroy cancer cells or fight cancer-causing infections.

DuPont, which used PFAS chemicals in the manufacture of Teflon, reached a $US670 million settlement with residents living near its manufacturing plant in Ohio, West Virginia, last year, after an expert health panel conducted a large-scale epidemiological investigation. It concluded that residents’ drinking water, tainted with one of the chemicals called PFOA, had a “probable link” to six health conditions, including kidney and testicular cancer.

One of 3M’s own material data safety sheets for a PFAS chemical included a warning that it could cause cancer in 1997 - that was subsequently removed - according to the Minnesota case.

The chemical of greatest concern in Australia is perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, arguably the most toxic of the chemicals studied. This was widely used in Scotchgard and fire-fighting foams.

Last month, there was a storm of controversy amid claims that the US EPA and the White House blocked the publication of a health study on PFAS carried out by the country’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

In emails leaked to Politico, a Trump administration aide warned that the report would be a “public relations nightmare” because it would show that the chemicals endangered human health at far lower levels than what the EPA had previously deemed safe.

Health warnings were echoed by Harvard Professor Philippe Grandjean and Professor Jamie DeWitt of North Carolina State University in their expert testimonies for the State of Minnesota.

Professor Grandjean argued that PFAS chemicals pose a “substantial present and potential hazard” to human health, including to immune, thyroid, liver, endocrine, cardiovascular and reproductive functions, and by “causing or increasing the risk of cancer”.

“Both PFOA and PFOS show convincing associations with these outcomes,” he said, adding that risks to human health had been identified at very low exposure levels.

Watching 'bad papers'

To the outside world, Professor Giesy was a renowned and independent university academic.

“But privately, he characterised himself as part of the 3M team,” alleged the State of Minnesota.

“Despite spending most of his career as a professor at public universities, Professor Giesy has a net worth of approximately $20 million. This massive wealth results at least in part from his long-term involvement with 3M for the purpose of suppressing independent scientific research on PFAS.”

Professor Giesy’s consulting company appears to have received payments from 3M between at least 1998 and 2009. One document indicated his going rate was about $US275 an hour.

In an email to a 3M laboratory manager, Professor Giesy described his role as trying to keep “bad papers out of the literature”, because in “litigation situations they can be a large obstacle to refute”.

Professor Giesy was an editor of several academic journals and, in any given year, about half of the papers submitted on PFAS came to him for review.

“Some journals … for conflict-of-interest issues will not allow an industry to review a paper about one of their products. That is where I came in,” he wrote in another email.

“In time sheets, I always listed these reviews as literature searches so that there was no paper trail to 3M.”

Professor Giesy is alleged to have passed confidential manuscripts on to 3M, as well as an email from an EPA scientist detailing its latest PFAS investigations in Athens, Georgia. He allegedly bragged about rejecting the publication of at least one paper containing negative information about PFAS.

In another email chain, a 3M manager was concerned that a study Professor Giesy had drafted was “suggestive” of possible PFAS health hazards and should be cushioned with an accompanying document on the health effects.

“This paper … could set off a chain reaction of speculation that could reopen the issue with the media and move it back to a health story; something up to now we have avoided,” he wrote.

Professor Giesy is based at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, but he also holds positions with the University of Michigan and several Chinese universities.

An internal 3M document referred to him needing to “buy favours” when developing joint projects with Chinese colleagues “over whom he can exert some influence”.

A spokesperson for the University of Saskatchewan said it had conducted two reviews of Dr Giesy’s conduct.

“We found nothing out of the ordinary or evidence of conflict of interest,” she said.

SOURCE 







If you say untrue things about government, is the government free to publish true things about you?

One would think it only fair but apparently government should be muzzled, according to some.  Lies are not protected free speech

Australia’s national privacy office has ruled that individuals should “reasonably expect” the government will release sensitive personal data publicly to refute its critics, sparking concerns of a “chilling effect” on free speech.

Late on Monday evening, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner released the findings of an inquiry it launched in March last year following the Department of Human Services’ release of a blogger’s personal Centrelink history to a media organisation.

The Department did so to refute details contained in an opinion piece by the blogger for Fairfax Media in which she claimed that she had been “terrorised” by Centrelink as part of the controversial robodebt scheme.

After the opinion piece was published in February 2017, a briefing was provided to another journalist that detailed the blogger’s welfare history. This lead to a follow-up article claiming Centrelink may have been “unfairly castigated”.

The blogger in question complained to the OAIC, and former information and privacy commissioner Timothy Pilgrim opened an investigation into the matter in March.

Fourteen months later, the office has decided that the government was allowed to release the personal data under the Australian Privacy Principles, as individuals should “reasonably expect” the government to release private information under those circumstances.

The decision has sparked huge backlash against the OAIC and the country’s privacy laws more broadly.

The Australian Privacy Principles, which apply to all Australian government departments and agencies, include a range of exceptions where the personal information of an individual can be disclosed for another purpose.

These include when the individual would “reasonably expect the secondary use or disclosure” and this is related to the primary purpose of collection of the information.

It is under this exception that the department was allowed to release the blogger’s personal information to the media, the OAIC ruled.

“Having carefully considered the specific public statements made by the Centrelink customer, and the specific information disclosed in response, the acting Australian Information Commissioner and acting Privacy Commissioner reached the conclusion that, in this instance, the disclosure was permitted by APP 6.2(a)(ii),” the OAIC said in its decision.

The decision was made more than a year after the investigation was launched, and after the retirement of former privacy commissioner Timothy Pilgrim.

Angelene Falk has been serving as acting privacy commissioner since Mr Pilgrim’s retirement in March, with the agency close to announcing his replacement.

The OAIC’s decision pointed to a case note from 2010 as providing precedent, in which the Commissioner’s Plain English Guidelines to Information Privacy Principles gives examples of when an individual may be considered to be “reasonably likely” to think their information may be disseminated.

“A person who complains publicly about an agency in relation to their circumstances (for example, to the media) is considered to be reasonably likely to be aware that the agency may respond publicly – and in a way that reveals personal information relevant to the issues they have raised,” the guidelines say.

A number of Australian civil and digital rights advocates have been left outraged by the decision, with Electronic Frontiers Australia board member Peter Tonoli saying it “flies in the face of trust in government”.

Electronic Frontiers Australia policy team member Drew Mayo said she is concerned the recent ruling could have a chilling effect on criticisms of the government, with individuals concerned that their sensitive data will then be released publicly.

“EFA is extremely concerned about the implications of the recent ruling. The chilling effect posed by this decision is a direct risk to democracy and an attack on the strongest free speech protection Australians have, the implied right of political communication,” Mr Mayo told InnovationAus.com.

“We call on the government to enshrine in law the right of Australians to comment robustly on government policy without the risk of private data being released in retribution.”

The department has claimed that the release of the sensitive data was “proportionate” given the claims made in the blogger’s opinion piece.

“The recipient had made a number of claims that were unfounded and it is the opinion of officers that this was likely to concern other individuals,” Department secretary Kathryn Campbell said.

“That’s why we felt that it was appropriate to release the information, so that people knew it was important to file their tax returns and tell us about changes in their circumstances. In this case, our data said that had not occurred and that is why we had been chasing the debt,” she said.

SOURCE






Thales Sonar Upgrades to Extend Australia's Collins Class Submarine Capability

Australia’s Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has announced major upgrades of the Thales sonars on Australia’s fleet of six Collins Class submarines.

The sonar upgrades are essential to extend the life of the Collins class submarines and maintain their regional superiority.

The A$230million contract with Thales for the sonar upgrades will employ 50 people at Thales Australia’s Rydalmere facility, in Western Sydney, where world-leading sonar technology is manufactured and integrated.

Australia’s strategic priority on enhancing its submarine capability will be supported by Thales through major upgrades of the sonar systems on all six Collins class submarines. The A$230million contract with Thales is part of a A$542million project  approved by the Australian Government for the upgrade of the Collins class sensor capabilities, the key to extending the life and the regional superiority of the Collins fleet.

Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins said the Collins sonar upgrades continued a 30 year history of support for the Collins program since the original transfer of sonar technology from France in the 1980’s that formed the basis of the underwater systems business in Australia.

“It is critical that Australia maintain the highest levels of submarine capability from the Collins fleet until the Future Submarine enters service. The sonar systems are the ‘eyes and ears’ of the submarines, and Thales will bring together the best underwater sensing technology from around the world to ensure the Collins remains a potent force” Mr Jenkins said.

Manufacturing and integration work will be carried out at Thales’s underwater systems centre of excellence in Rydalmere, Western Sydney, supporting more than 140 jobs, including 50 people directly employed on the project.

In an internationally collaborative program, the Collins’ legacy cylindrical array will be replaced with a Modular Cylindrical Array (MCA) based on Sonar 2076 submarine technology developed by Thales teams in the UK. The existing flank array will be replaced by the latest generation flank array from Thales teams in France.


Thales will work with local industry including Raytheon Australia as the Combat System Integrator to deliver the upgrades for the six submarines integrating products from other Australian providers including Sonartech Atlas, and L3 Oceania.

Thales is a key strategic partner of the Australian Defence Force and the Royal Australian Navy, and is Australia’s market leader in underwater systems, having supplied advanced sonar and minesweeping systems to naval and civil customers in Australia and overseas for more than three decades.

“France and Australia have collaborated closely on sonar systems for the Collins submarines since the start of the program more than 30 years ago. Thales teams based in France, UK and Australia have worked together as one team to master the sonar technology in Australia and to share know-how with one ambition: assure long term regional superiority for the Royal Australian Navy.” Alexis Morel, Vice-President, Underwater Systems at Thales.

Via email






Indigenous child welfare double standards will perpetuate gap                                                 

Bill Shorten has been rightly criticised for his comments suggesting ‘culture’ take priority over the welfare of Indigenous children — and for suggesting that only ‘whitefellas’ say otherwise.

But it’s really Indigenous politics that Shorten is talking about taking precedence over children’s best interests.

The Indigenous industry is pushing hard to stop child removals. If removals continue at present rates, the future of the rural and remote ‘homelands’ will be jeopardised and so will  the taxpayer funding received by the plethora of Indigenous organisations that provide services to these communities.

The industry says that the way to stop child removals and fix the underlying social problems and dysfunction is to ‘empower’ Indigenous-controlled organisations and communities to implement the solutions they claim to know work on the ground.

This approach was not successful during the era of ATISC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission) which was abolished after presiding over corruption, failure, and an ever-widening gap in social outcomes between the most disadvantaged Indigenous people and all other Australians.

We are now being told that it will be different this time because Indigenous-controlled services will be properly evaluated for their effectiveness and held accountable for the outcomes they do — or do not — achieve.

This is not before time because Indigenous child protection poses the most complex and intractable social problem in the nation.

To ensure children can remain safely at home and close (allegedly) to culture, the array of social problems (from welfare dependence to drug and alcohol abuse to family violence) that plague and are entrenched in Indigenous families and communities — and which are intergenerational in nature and decades in the making — have to resolved within a short, child-centred timeframe to ensure that children are properly cared for and parented.

What this means is that child protection – that is, welfare-based decisions about whether children need to be removed from their own safety and well-being — is the ultimate accountability, and the ultimate measure, of whether services are actually effective at promoting the welfare of the most vulnerable members of Indigenous community.

Creating the kind of double-standard and different treatment of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children proposed by the Opposition Leader, at the behest of the indigenous industry, would therefore clearly be a retrograde step in indigenous affairs.

This is not the way to ‘close the gap’. It is nothing short of a recipe for perpetuating and exacerbating ‘gaps’ by leaving Indigenous children in harm’s way.

SOURCE 

Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here



Week-end Wrap – June 16, 2018

Uncategorized
Week-end Wrap - June 16, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Sen. Sanders writes op-ed: Trump administration isn't slowing renewables' momentum
(6/6) [Wind Energy Association]
A renewable energy revolution is sweeping the US and will continue to do so as prices fall even further, despite the Trump administration's efforts to prop up fossil fuels and gas, writes Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Sanders touts his efforts to bolster renewables in Washington, D.C., including co-sponsoring a bill that would end federal support for fossil fuels and encourage a shift to 100% renewables by 2050.

IEA: Global renewable energy spending is outpacing other sources [Wind Energy Association]
Falling wind costs and other factors propelled global spending on renewables to $297 billion in 2016 -- more than double the amount invested in fossil fuels, according to the International Energy Agency. The report added that renewable sources will likely account for 56% of all generating capacity brought online through 2025. 

Solar Has Overtaken Gas and Wind as Biggest Source of New U.S. Power [Bloomberg, via Wind Energy Association]. June 12, 2018
“Despite tariffs that President Trump imposed on imported panels, the U.S. installed more solar energy than any other source of electricity in the first quarter. Developers installed 2.5 gigawatts of solar in the first quarter, up 13 percent from a year earlier....
Billions in U.S. solar projects shelved after Trump panel tariff [Reuters, via Naked Capitalism]. 
“President Donald Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels has led U.S. renewable energy companies to cancel or freeze investments of more than $2.5 billion in large installation projects, along with thousands of jobs, the developers told Reuters. That’s more than double the about $1 billion in new spending plans announced by firms building or expanding U.S. solar panel factories to take advantage of the tax on imports.

On trade, Donald Trump was right. The rest of the G7 were wrong. by George Monbiot, 13 Jun 2018 [The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism]. There were some people who warned before the 2016 election that the Democratic Party's refusal to actually deal with economic inequality (not just talk about it) would allow Trumo to run to the left of Clinton on many issues, especiallytrade.
In arguing for a sunset clause to the Nafta trade agreement, this odious man is exposing the corruption of liberal democracy.... 
Even if the people of the US, Canada and Mexico had explicitly consented to Nafta in 1994, the idea that a decision made then should bind everyone in North America for all time is repulsive. So is the notion, championed by the Canadian and Mexican governments, that any slightly modified version of the deal agreed now should bind all future governments. 
But the people of North America did not explicitly consent to Nafta. They were never asked to vote on the deal, and its bipartisan support ensured that there was little scope for dissent. The huge grassroots resistance in all three nations was ignored or maligned. The deal was fixed between political and commercial elites, and granted immortality. 
In seeking to update the treaty, governments in the three countries have candidly sought to thwart the will of the people.
The end of net neutrality: The US ruling elite escalates campaign of internet censorship [WorldSocialist Web, 2 June 2018, via Naked Capitalism]
This is not the outcome merely of a change in administrations. It is part of a shift in the class policy of the ruling elite. The 2016 election, with its broad abstention by the working class amid widespread hostility to Hillary Clinton, the favored candidate of Wall Street, and the subsequent strike movement by teachers independently of the unions, has made clear to the ruling elite that the imposition of internet censorship is necessary for the defense of its domination of society.
WaPo and SEC Commissioner Wake Up to Looming Crisis from Stock Buybacks, by Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 12, 2018 [Wall Street on Parade]. Unfortunately, no one is linking the stick buybacks to Republicans' tax cuts. We have pointed out that tax cuts do not work to spur investment because if tax rates are high, the only way for a company and its managers to keep profits is to reinvest in the company. When tax rates are too low, there is too much incentive for "profit taking"--which under the MBA-coma of the past half century, usually means asset stripping.

Rep. Keith Ellison introduces bill to curb stock buybacks, by Naomi Jagoda, 06/12/18, The Hill.

How Private Equity Helped Kill Toys ‘R’ Us, by Eileen Appelbaum [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism]

Crisis on the High Plains: The Loss of America’s Largest Aquifer – the Ogallala [University of Denver Water Law Review, via Naked Capitalism] "The Ogallala Aquifer supports an astounding one-sixth of the world’s grain produce...."

Beijing’s Building Boom: How the West Surrendered Global Infrastructure Development to China
By Bushra Bataineh, Michael Bennon, and Francis Fukuyama [Foreign Affairs]
Scholars and pundits in the West have become increasingly alarmed that China’s planned Belt and Road Initiative (B&R) could further shift the global strategic landscape in Beijing’s favor, with infrastructure lending as its primary lever for global influence. The planned network of infrastructure project—financed by China’s bilateral lenders, the China Development Bank (CDB) and the Export-Import Bank of China (CEXIM), along with the newly formed and multilateral Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank—is historically unprecedented in scope.
China’s Global Electricity Takeover, by Leonard Hyman and Willian Tilles, Jun 13, 2018 [Wolf Street, via Naked Capitalism]

Musk’s Boring Company wins bid to build high-speed system in Chicago [Reuters, via Naked Capitalism]
The system will be comprised of 16-passenger vehicles that will travel up to 150 miles (240 km) per hour through a tunnel that will cut the current 30 to 45-minute trip between the airport and Chicago’s business district down to 12 minutes....
Americans should be ashamed New York City's LaGuardia Airport has no rail service whatsover. And, a pertinent historical note: LaGuardia Airport was built during the Depression as a Works Progress Administration project.

“Is Durham a union town? Labor groups hope so.” [Herald-Sun, via Naked Capitalism].
“Union and labor groups in Durham are calling for a Worker’s Rights Commission, and think they have a city council who supports it. ‘Durham probably has the most progressive city council in North Carolina,” said Aiden Graham, campaign manager for the North Carolina State AFL-CIO. He thinks the city can be a leader in the state and the South. But he also said Durham has a low union density.'”
Poor Peoples Campaign Protests All Over US Ignored by Media June 14, 2018 by Yves Smith [Naked Capitalism] Lots of excellent links. Yves includes this excerpt from the Poor Peoples Campaign website page on “National Morality”:
In the history of this country, moral justifications have been offered for the genocide and forced removal of indigenous people from their lands, slavery, resisting the Brown v. Board of Education school segregation case and opposing the Roe v. Wade abortion case. Today, religious extremists focus on issues like prayer in school, abortion, and gun rights that distort the national moral narrative.
This distorted narrative became integral to the well-funded libertarian movement to redefine “liberty” as freedom from government. In 2016, Franklin Graham invested $10 million of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s money in his 2016 Decision America Tour to each state house in the country. Billed as “nonpartisan” prayer rallies, these gatherings framed the “moral crisis” as a decision between progressive atheist values and God. After the election, Graham called Trump’s victory an answer to prayer.

The Destruction of Latin America’s Left and Lessons for Everyone, by Ian Welsh, June 10, 2018
The norms are breaking down in many nations, including the United States. What is done to win is illegitimate, as with Republican vote manipulation and the 2000 Supreme court decision; what is done afterwards to opponents is also often illegitimate, and if the wrong person wins, they are gone after legally....
This is a very dirty game, and left-wingers keep treating it as if it is not: as if there are rules, and both sides play by them. Increasingly in the US that is not the case, and it is clearly not the case many other places. If your enemies win, they will destroy you by any means. You should think long and hard about what you will do to them if you get into power, because they know what they will do to you.
Republican incumbent Mark Sanford defeated in South Carolina primary for US House for refusing to support Trump. I saw this news in other places, but because I'm on the road, it's most convenient to just pluck these two links from Naked Capitalism:
VA-05: “Varying Degrees of Horror”: In 2018, the Republicans Are Really Just Running Against Themselves—and Their Party’s Future” [Vanity Fair]. Entertaining detail on VA-05. Then: “[O]ne of the defining characteristics of the 2018 cycle is the extraordinary number of House Republicans who are not standing for re-election—a number now approaching 50, and which exceeds any similar exodus in modern political history. [M]ore than anything else, the departures reflect the difficulty of acclimating to a political party increasingly defined by Donald Trump. Many Republican members of Congress view the G.O.P.’s transformation from a party based on principles of limited government to one that has become a populist front for Trump’s unique brand of Twitter demagoguery with “varying degrees of horror,” as Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who also served three Republican presidents, put it. Trump’s strong hold on the base, which has apparently not eroded at all in the last 18 months, has made it politically difficult for those in office to confront this directly, and some are choosing retirement as a means of jumping off a ‘vessel that is . . . damaged and stained.'” And Chuck Schumer is waiting, with open arms, to catch them when they jump! Finally: “In the end, the 2018 midterms are not merely important for settling who will control the House for the next two years. Equally important, they will determine the changing composition of the Republican caucus, and help define the future of the G.O.P.” 
SC-05: “[Mark] Sanford’s fatal sin: Crossing Donald Trump” [Politico]. “The South Carolina congressman’s stunning defeat in Tuesday’s Republican primary effectively ended the turbulent two-decade career of a political icon who once harbored presidential aspirations. State Rep. Katie Arrington defeated Sanford 50.6 percent to 46.5 percent…. .Mark had a long and storied career, he was a very famous and successful politician. But he didn’t read the tea leaves right, and that came back to haunt him,” said former state Rep. Chip Limehouse, who hails from a prominent Charleston family and has known Sanford for years. ‘Mark misjudged it, attacking Trump. That’s what killed him.'” Then again: “In what was perhaps an early sign that his political strength was abating, Sanford received just 55 percent of the vote in his 2016 primary, against an opponent who spent little.”
[Below is from Naked Capitalism, including Lambert's comment in the final paragraph] 
“The Left’s Problem With Order, the Center’s Problem With Happiness, and the Right’s Problem With the Truth” [Benjamin Studebaker (via the excellent BLCKDGRD)].
The center speaks for the order we have–it emphasises the value of its order, the value of the institutions and norms that it defends. But it increasingly is unable to tell a story about its order which speaks to the values we have beyond order itself…. The right doesn’t buy the story. It’s sick of the center’s order. But the right’s solutions all involve trying to make the world more like it used to be…. The right tells compelling stories but there’s no truth in them. It is a movement built on lies and false hopes.
The left understands the economic origins of the problems which the right mistakes as racial, ethnic, or national. It understands that we can’t go on ignoring the mass unhappiness our order increasingly leaves unaddressed. But the left is order-phobic. It views powerful institutions like the state or major political parties as fundamentally corrupt, and it views the strategies and tactics necessary to capture those institutions as morally unclean. The left wants a politics of self-actualisation–it wants to prioritise happiness not merely in its policies but also in the political means by which it pursues its ends. Worse, it wants this self-actualisation on an individual level, making it difficult for people who self-actualise in different ways to work with one another. The left resists engaging with institutions, and it views efforts to engage with institutions and the constraints they impose as an assault on the purity and moral identity of its movement. It is so hostile to order that it is unable to tell a story in which its proposals to make us happy can be enacted or sustained through stable, lasting institutions. This makes the left increasingly irrelevant and allows the political debate to focus around the distinctions between the center and the right.
[This is Lambert's comment.] I like the “order, happiness, truth” trope, but I think Studebaker is stuck on the linear, “Overton Window” model that sees left, center, right” as a spectrum. I think this is a category error. To recategorize, I think that conservatives, liberals, and the left are on a plane, not a line: Conservatives and liberals put markets first; the left puts the working class first, and so are not simply more liberal liberals. Ergo, the identity politics crowd (“politics of self-actualisation”) needs to be taken out of the left bucket, and thrown into the liberal (“centrist”* bucket). If you unmuddy the waters like that, the willingness of the left, in the form of both Sanders and institutions like DSA, to “engage with institutions” becomes clear. I mean, surely the left’s call for #MedicareForAll brings about both happiness and “stable, lasting institutions,” in contrast to the “End ____ism” calls from the identity politics crowd, which cannot. NOTE * Both liberals and conservatives can be centrists, exactly as they can both be neoliberals. A good litmus test for a centrist, at least in the national security arena, is using the phrase “rules-based international order” non-ironically. After Iraq? Libya? I’m all for a “rules-based international order.” We should try it some time.