WHY is the Morrison Government having an Extended Shutdown?

In the Sydney Morning Herald today, 2 April 2020 Peter Hartcher writes, ‘Calls for greater scrutiny of government during shutdown‘:

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/calls-for-greater-scrutiny-of-government-during-shutdown-20200401-p54g6m.html

‘A group of former judges is urging Australia’s parliament to set up a bipartisan committee to scrutinise the government’s epidemic responses as it faces one of the longest shutdowns on record.’

For 125 days!!

EXTRACT

In comments provided for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Ms Gaudron said:

“We have a national cabinet with no statutory or constitutional foundation, making decisions affecting us all now, and it seems, for many months and perhaps years into the future.

In the present circumstances that body is fulfilling a vital national role.

But the circumstances are not such as to require that its decisions are free of oversight, particularly as new and wide discretionary powers have been conferred on ministers of the Commonwealth.”

The group of judges includes two former judges of the Victorian Court of Appeal, David Harper and Stephen Charles, a former judge of the NSW Court of Appeal, Anthony Whealy, and a former judge of the Queensland Court of Appeal, Margaret White.

The executive director of the Australia Institute, Ben Oquist, who convened the judges’ group, said that Australia was already in a health crisis and an economic crisis “and we’d like to see if we can avoid a crisis of democracy as well”.

The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, former NSW director of public prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery, made a similar call on Wednesday: “Even the darkest days of the World Wars did not force parliament to close for extended periods.”

He called on the federal and NSW parliaments to make use of their committee processes for “more democracy and accountability in these difficult months, not less”.

An Australian Senate committee on Wednesday came to a bipartisan agreement to continue to meet by video link to exercise its powers to oversee the government.

The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation said that it would monitor laws delegated to it to screen them for any infringements of personal liberty. This committee has a relatively narrow remit that excludes spending matters, for instance.

READ MORE!

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/calls-for-greater-scrutiny-of-government-during-shutdown-20200401-p54g6m.html

Parliament is heading for an unusually long recess of about 125 days.
Parliament is heading for an unusually long recess of about 125 days.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

LINKS concerning the consequences of the closing of Australian car manufacturing industry

A nurse speaks with patients at a coronavirus clinic in Adelaide

 A nurse at a coronavirus clinic in Adelaide. The federal government is talking with the carmaker Ford about whether it can help in boosting the number of ventilators available for treating patients with Covid-19. Photograph: Reuters

MACRO BUSINESS:

Decimation of Australia’s car industry could literally cost lives

The federal government’s short-sighted decision to allow Australia’s automotive manufacturing industry to close has left the nation desperately short of ventilators, placing lives at risk:

THE GUARDIAN: Coronavirus ventilators australian government asks carmaker Ford for help in boosting production

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/26/coronavirus-ventilators-australian-government-asks-carmaker-ford-for-help-in-boosting-production

LVO:

During times of war – be it with other nations or a virus – a nation needs to have its own manufacturing capability.

However, by letting the car industry fold, the government has left Australia highly reliant on imports at a time of global shortage.

LOOK No Further! Who's to Blame for CoronaVirus in Australia?

CAAN has found a letter which reveals that the Morrison Government had been notified by the CSIRO about the CoronaVirus as early as November 2019

THE CSIRO learnt of the emergence of the CoronaVirus in late November 2019 … they were alert to its likely consequences … but were hindered by China’s obsession with secrecy … was this ‘to save face’?

Following which the offices of the Health Minister and the Prime Minister were provided with the issues and specifics to safeguard Australia

DECEMBER 2019 Australian scientists were able to cultivate the CoronaVirus with the aim of developing a vaccine

MEANWHILE the CSIRO like many government agencies and departments has been pulled apart by Liberal Governments through both budget and job cuts, and their privatisation policy!

-many Scientists forced to leave Australia

Rather the Morrison Government refrained from acting and it appears this allowed the disease to develop unchecked.

Image may contain: 1 person, possible text that says 'I know nothing! The Schultz Defence'
Photo: MacroBusiness

Was the Morrison Government preoccupied with its obsession of ensuring business interests over and above its Constituents?

Among the CSIRO’s proposals for the best course of action was to stop travellers and to stop the airlines!

-the Morrison Government prioritized the feasibility of the airlines

-along with the mining industry

AND dare we at CAAN say the Property Sector of developers, real estate gatekeepers, and their overseas money laundering clients?

The forecast is that it will be six months before it comes to an end!

THE RAMIFICATIONS FOR AUSTRALIA’s ECONOMY CONTINUE TO BE DIRE …

two Million Australians face unemployment; to hit 11% by June; the second Great Depression

-bank profits smashed; bad debts growing

-businesses forced to close; retail bust; hospitality bust

-scaling up social distancing; isolation; mental health issues etc, etc!

READ MORE!

‘Hunt and Morrison were Warned about CoronaVirus in Late November and did Nothing’

VIEW: https://medium.com/@narelleford/wednesday-post-da60561dfa40

In case this disappears … copies of the original letter to ‘The Bulletin’ have been made!

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Photo: MacroBusiness

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AN EPA Accredited Auditor has been Outraged by the Plan to dig up Sydney Harbour’s toxic sludge

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WESTERN HARBOUR TUNNEL: Source: Environmental Impact Statement

From local commentators

-mirrors community concerns in St Peters when Westconnex trashed the joint there

-The State Govt has also ignored the old coal mines under the sludge. The proposed pipes may well be placed over unstable “ground” and crack.

FROM Carrie Fellner’s report in the SMH about the expansion of the privately owned Hong Kong Consortium MTR Metro … and its twin tunnels linking Rozelle with the Warringah Freeway in North Sydney

READ MORE:

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/i-m-outraged-secrecy-over-plan-to-dig-up-sydney-harbour-s-toxic-sludge-20200317-p54awm.html

It looks like more of the same from NSW INC with this project running roughshod over communities in their path … this time dredging toxic sludge, and tunnelling …

‘Thousands of tonnes of toxic sludge containing cancer-causing chemicals is set to be dug up from the bed of Sydney Harbour, under plans for the Western Harbour Tunnel that one of the state’s leading contamination experts fears do not protect the public, including fishermen and families who swim in harbour pools.

It comes amid revelations the exact concentrations of the chemicals in the sludge will remain secret after the NSW government ruled that a report containing the information was “commercial in confidence” and should not be released to the public.

Dr Bill Ryall, a leading environmental consultant, has raised the alarm bells over a plan to dredge up part of Sydney Harbour to put in place a new Western Harbour tunnel.
Dr Bill Ryall, a leading environmental consultant, has raised the alarm bells over a plan to dredge up part of Sydney Harbour to put in place a new Western Harbour tunnel. CREDIT:DEAN SEWELL

Dr Bill Ryall, who worked as an EPA accredited auditor and has been involved in some of the city’s most significant contamination clean up efforts at Homebush and Barangaroo, has now decided to speak out, slamming the decision to withhold the “critical” report.

BECAUSE Dr Ryall is unable to assess the risk to human health or the marine environment with dangerous toxins from industrial activity and storm water built up over 150 years on the harbour floor

-past studies have shown the tracts of sediment are worse than Tokyo Bay or New York Harbour

chemicals include dioxins, hydrocarbons, tributylin, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides, heavy metals and PFAS

-under an EIS the sludge will be dredged for tunnels to be laid along the bed of the harbour

-workers would have to dig up a heavily polluted layer of sediment 1.5 metres deep

.using two pre-fabricated tube tunnels lowered onto the sea floor between Birchgrove and Waverton

SINCE the report remains ‘commercial in confidence’ how can the community be assured that some 760,000 cubic metres of sediment would not be affected by contamination?

DESPITE a risk assessment finding that buried contaminants posed a high risk. What management actions would render them low risk?

HOW is it acceptable that up to 1300 cubic metres of contaminated sediment particles would be lost to the harbour waters … to be ingested by fish, crustaceans and oysters?

WHY is the NSW Government not ensuring adherence to its legislation requiring developers to report contamination to the EPA?

-carry out a detailed investigation

-have remediation action plans signed off before releasing an EIS to the public

IS the secrecy about eliminating the costs in excess of $100M for treating sediments and disposing of the contaminated wastewater?

AND … inevitable odours of ‘rotten egg gas’ from wet acid sulfate soils during removal of the sludge!

Dr Bill Ryall has concerns over contamination.
Dr Bill Ryall has concerns over contamination.CREDIT:DEAN SEWELL

UNEMPLOYED … have they again been overlooked by Government … ?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce about $8 billion in stimulus payments and other tax breaks to support businesses.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce about $8 billion in stimulus payments and other tax breaks to support businesses.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

From a commentator …

‘But, but Scotty from Marketing was talking the other day about Team Straya, albeit to a meeting of businesspeople?’

EXTRACT FROM ‘UNEMPLOYED SHAFTED AGAIN BY MORRISON GOVERNMENT’

‘So, the Morrison Government has announced an $18 billion stimulus package to combat the coronavirus (see David’s earlier post).

While the unemployed languishing on Newstart will receive tiny one-off payments of $500, they once again were largely overlooked by the federal government, which sees pensioners, small businesses, and tradies as more worthy of report.

Let me explain, once again, why the Morrison Government should have included a large ($75-plus a week) lift to Newstart in its stimulus package.

First, the equity considerations.

The rate of Newstart is pathetically low and has not received a real increase since the early-1990s.

It has fallen well below the Aged Pension and wage growth, including the minimum wage

Newstart is now around 30% below the poverty line

-Australia’s unemployment benefits are the equal lowest in the developed world

lifting Newstart would be the strongest from of demand-side stimulus

-could be implemented within the fortnightly welfare payment cycle

WHY is the Morrison Government so wedded to its ideology?

READ the full report from Leith Van Onselen, Macro Business:

https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2020/03/unemployed-shafted-again-by-morrison-government/

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a multi billion coronavirus stimulus package.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a multi billion coronavirus stimulus package. CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

Macro Business: The rich feast while Aussie households famine

CAAN: Where have Australia’s ultra-high-net-worth- and high-net-worth-individuals come from?

Are they all home-grown? Or have their numbers grown substantially due to the high influx of ‘Permanent Residents’ seeking a bolt hole from mainland China with a UHNWI Visa specially for investment in Australian housing, commercial property and business, and agricultural property?

IS this in addition to Australian property developers rising up the AFR and Forbes Rich Lists? Cough … cough …

Image may contain: 2 people

The rich feast while Aussie households famine

Leith van Onselen

By Leith van Onselen in Australian Economy

March 11, 2020 | 16 comments

While ordinary Australian households tread water financially, experiencing zero growth in household disposable income over more than seven years:

Image result for liberal coalition

Australia’s ultra-wealthy population is projected to balloon further over the next five years, according to the Knight Frank Wealth Report:

The data shows Australia’s ultra-high-net-worth-individual (UHNWI) population will rise to 4,881 by 2024, up from 3,796 in 2019, with more than 200 new ultra-wealthy people being created in Australia each year.

Australia’s ultra-wealthy population grew by 5% in 2019 and by 35% over the past five years.

At the same time, Australia’s high-net-worth-individuals (HNWI) are expected to grow by 34% over the next five years to reach close to 2.1 million. Currently, 50 million people globally are considered millionaires, with wealth of US$1 million or more.

According to Knight Frank’s Head of Residential Research, Australia Michelle Ciesielski, Australia is forecast to have one of the highest rates of growth in UHNWI populations globally over the next five years…

Knight Frank’s Joint National Head of Private Office Sarah Harding said: “On average 80% of Australian UHNWIs saw an increase in wealth in 2019, well above the global average response of 63% in the Knight Frank Attitudes Survey.

“Looking ahead to 2020, 63% of Australian UHNWIs believe their wealth portfolios will continue to grow, which is optimistic when compared to the global average of 55%.

Major growth in high net worth individuals at the same time zero real income growth for households sounds like a country running off the rails.

Leith Van OnselenLeith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

what-is-poverty-1-in-6

Read more: https://www.thesmithfamily.com.au/poverty-in-australia/what-is

SOURCE: https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2020/03/the-rich-feast-while-aussie-households-famine/

News Corp, Nine accused of closing AAP to damage competitors

Paul Hamra, managing director of The New Daily, said start-up media newsrooms with limited resources relied on AAP to help cover breaking news around the country.

“As a customer of the service, no one thought to contact us to discuss options, such as increased syndication fees, restructured offerings or equity,” Mr Hamra said.

“ … I get the impression News Corp and Nine just want to set up their own newswire service instead, with their own content, controlling more of the market and restricting access for new Australian journalism ventures.

THE MEAA said …

“ … today’s reports suggest a more sinister motive: The closure is designed to deliberately harm their print and online rivals who subscribe to AAP for news about politics, sport, business, courts and crime, and for breaking news.

“The fact that they didn’t put AAP up for sale indicates News and Nine simply wanted AAP shut down.”

Related Article:

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.com/2020/03/03/the-dumbening-deepens-with-aap-shutter/

News Corp, Nine accused of closing AAP to damage competitors

The New Daily@TheNewDailyAU

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Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and fellow media giant Nine have been accused of closing news agency, Australian Associated Press, to damage their smaller competitors.

After repeatedly asserting that unfair competition from tech companies  Google and Facebook brought about AAP’s demise, new reports indicate News Corp and Nine might have had a more cynical motive for closing the decades-old news agency and putting hundreds of staff out of work.

AAP management announced on Tuesday that, after 85 years of servicing the Australian media industry, the news service would close on June 26.

About 180 jobs will be lost from AAP’s editorial arm, with hundreds more expected from other divisions.

On Thursday, The Guardian reported that AAP chairman Campbell Reid, who is also a News Corp executive, told AAP staff that Nine and News Corp were tired of subsidising a breaking news service for their competitors.

Mr Reid was quoted as telling staff in AAP’s Melbourne bureau that News Corp would develop its own breaking news service.

It has also been reported that Nine is considering a similar move.

Mr Reid reportedly said that News Corp was “committed to the supply of breaking news”, adding “we don’t have to supply it for everybody else in Australia who’s telling us that they don’t want it”.

news corp aap
Some 180 journalists around Australia will lose their jobs. Photo: AAP

ACCC monitoring

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has not announced an investigation, but confirmed on Thursday it was looking into the closure.

“The ACCC is aware of the announced closure of AAP and is keeping abreast of potential issues that may arise,” it said.

A spokeswoman said it would need to find that competition would likely be lessened to raise concerns.

The New Daily, The Guardian, The Daily Mail and the former Fairfax regional mastheads now controlled by Antony Catalano all rely on AAP for breaking news and photography.

Former ACCC chairman Allan Fels told The New Daily that while it was unlikely a legal problem with AAP’s closure could be proved, it would diminish competition and was a “landmark moment in the history of Australian journalism”.

Dr Fels said AAP has long formed the backbone of much of Australia’s journalism, particularly smaller newspapers, and was also quite an important ingredient for News Corp and Nine.

“It covers things that often the major newspapers aren’t resourced to do and it provides material for countless smaller newspapers,” he said.

“I’ve been saying for a while that public-interest journalism is shrinking as we speak. But this is a spectacular example.”

Paul Hamra, managing director of The New Daily, said start-up media newsrooms with limited resources relied on AAP to help cover breaking news around the country.

“As a customer of the service, no one thought to contact us to discuss options, such as increased syndication fees, restructured offerings or equity,” Mr Hamra said.

“We might have paid more – so, I hear, might have other customers, which could have helped the AAP business model. But no one asked.

“I get the impression News Corp and Nine just want to set up their own newswire service instead, with their own content, controlling more of the market and restricting access for new Australian journalism ventures.

‘Sinister motive’

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance on Thursday said News Corp and Nine “must answer for the decision to shut AAP”.

News Corp and Nine said the reason for shutting down AAP was that it was no longer financially viable and had been damaged by the proliferation of free news on social media and digital content aggregators,” MEAA federal president Marcus Strom said.

“However, today’s reports suggest a more sinister motive: The closure is designed to deliberately harm their print and online rivals who subscribe to AAP for news about politics, sport, business, courts and crime, and for breaking news.

“The fact that they didn’t put AAP up for sale indicates News and Nine simply wanted AAP shut down.”

The loss of the extensive news coverage provided by AAP means consumers around Australia will lose a trusted, reliable, accurate and impartial source of vital information.

“The media bosses responsible for the decision to shut AAP should pledge to employ any AAP editorial staff who want to remain in journalism,” Strom said.

Government action

Dr Fells called on the government to step in to help smaller media organisations. Photo: AAP

Dr Fels, who is chairman of the Public Interest Journalism Initiative, said public-interest journalism was shrinking and AAP’s closure was a “spectacular example”.

He said declining local journalism meant less court reporting and matters of concern to the local community, and called on the government to step in. Dr Fels flagged tax breaks, subsidies, scholarships and training support as potential ways to boost journalism.“It’s a fact that in the UK, Canada and parts of the US, and France as well, the government has been stepping in to protect the continuation of journalism, to give it some boost, especially local journalism,” he said.

SOURCE: https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/national/2020/03/05/news-corp-nine-aap-accusations/

The Dumbing Down deepens with AAP shutting down

THOUGHTS FROM COMMENTATORS …

-The property/debt parasite spreads through the media, affecting behavioural changes in consumers that makes marketing crap seem like common sense.

-Well, this is going to really help with the RBA’s stated aim of keeping wages up and unemployment low.

-We need a national broadcaster. Make it politically impartial. Call it, say, the ABC.

-You’re killing me. What happened to this country?

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Gregmus Kelly@gregmus_kelly·ABC MEAA staff say we must #saveAAP. Australia relies on its wire service and dedicated team of journalists. We are dismayed by reports of cuts to this vital service.

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The dumbening deepens with AAP shutter

By David Llewellyn-Smith in Australian business media

David Llewellyn-Smith

March 3, 2020 | 9 comments

The media duopoly will now be able to distort every single story towards happy clappy real estate:

AAP chairman Campbell Reid and chief executive Bruce Davidson brief staff at Rhodes on Tuesday.

AAP chairman Campbell Reid and chief executive Bruce Davidson brief staff at Rhodes on Tuesday.

AAP staff at Tuesday's briefing on the newswire's closure. It is believed at least 180 jobs will be lost.

AAP staff at Tuesday’s briefing on the newswire’s closure. It is believed at least 180 jobs will be lost.

The Australian Associated Press will shut down its news wire service on June 26 in an historic development for Australia’s media landscape after its two biggest clients and shareholders decided to pull out.

Major shareholders Nine Entertainment Co and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp will sever longstanding partnerships with AAP in an effort to cut costs amid a challenging media advertising landscape.

Nine is the owner of this masthead. It is believed at least 180 jobs will be lost in the closure.

…AAP chairman Campbell Reid said to staff: “The loss of AAP’s voice in the Australian conversation bothers me deeply. The fact that too many companies have chosen not to pay to publish that voice is the root of the problem.”

Carn mate, we can’t have you blokes writing real stories to upset the property market.

Breaking:

Coronavirus to lift Australian property prices by 147% in 2020: source.

David Llewellyn-SmithDavid Llewellyn-Smith is Chief Strategist at the MB Fund and MB Super. David is the founding publisher and editor of MacroBusiness and was the founding publisher and global economy editor of The Diplomat, the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics and economics portal.

He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.

SOURCE: https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2020/03/the-dumbening-deepens-with-aap-shutter/#comments

Michael Pascoe goes back over the maths on government grant rorts

There are things that urgently need federal money – an increased Newstart allowance, social housing – that should take precedence over pork barrelling.

Read more on the Rort Score so far … then Share! And tell others …

Michael Pascoe goes back over the maths on government grant rorts

Michael Pascoe wonders how trustworthy the Morrison government is when its proved it’s taken advantage of the public purse. Photo: AAP/TNDANALYSIS

Michael Pascoe

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I was lazy. I stopped counting politically rorted federal grant programs when I got to $1.1 billion.

I should have kept going to reach $8.1 billion.

That’s the total for 11 federal programs that have serious question marks – or worse – over their ethics, probity and basic governance.

That’s $8.1 billion of taxpayers’ money at the disposal of politicians who can’t be trusted not to use it for pork barrelling their way into government.

It makes Clive Palmer’s $83 million anti-Labor campaign look cheap.

In fairness, not all of that $8.1 billion has been spent – yet – and not all of it rorted.

But having watched the Morrison government so comprehensively raid the public purse, there’s no reason to believe they would spend the rest more responsibly.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Parliament on Monday. Photo: AAP

Now, when Australia is facing a potential financial crisis courtesy of the coronavirus, Scott Morrison is only sloganeering about possible “targeted, modest and scalable” financial assistance for the economy.

Mr Morrison’s office, the Cabinet Expenditure Review Committee and the Liberal Party’s campaign headquarters have proven to be adept at the targeted and scalable use of public money to get re-elected, but there was nothing modest about it.

When I added up a little over $1.1 billion in rorted programs last month, I was only trying to make a point about an inconsequential Liberal senator’s complaint about the size of the ABC’s annual budget.

That’s why I stopped.

But the rorts and rackets have kept rolling in over the past week or so, demanding a full accounting.

The score so far:

  • $102.5 million for the infamous Community Sport Infrastructure Program, the straw that broke the pork barrel’s back because the government defrauded sporting club volunteers who were misled into thinking the projects would be chosen on their merits, not political expediency
  • $150 million for the coalition’s spectacular “regional” swimming pools, that just happened to be overwhelmingly in Liberal seats, including $10 million for the region of the North Sydney pool
  • $272 million Regional Growth Fund most of which was dished out in a hurry just before the election and no prize for guessing which colour electorates overwhelmingly pocketed the largesse
  • $841.6 million for the Building Better Regions Fund. This loot is spread over four years, so I erred on the side of caution the first time round in only counting the election year splurge – but we all know better now
  • $200 million in government advertising in the lead up to the election – an unprecedented level of self-promotion with your money
  • $2 billion for the ironically-named Climate Solutions Fund. This poorly-administered handout for the favoured few is of dubious worth to begin with. It runs for 10 years, so I originally counted only one year’s worth – but in the spirit of rorting, what the hell, throw the lot in
  • $4 billion Urban Congestion Fund incorporating the $500 million Commuter Car Park Fund that followed the usual pattern of being mainly poured into coalition marginal seats
  • $300 million Drought Communities Program – another one where the government ignores its own criteria and hands out money without regard for eligibility
  • $220 million Regional Jobs and Investment Package – ministers rejecting 28 per cent of the recommended applications and approving 17 per cent without recommendation
  • $22.65 million for the Stronger Communities Program, and
  • $22.65 million for the Communities Environment Program.

These last two don’t discriminate.

MPs of all stripes get to play with taxpayers funds here – $150,000 for each program in each of our 151 electorates.

Your local MP has to invite or endorse applications – the sort of structural corruption you would perhaps expect in the wilder parts of the Papua New Guinea political system.

The $8000 for a sailing club barbecue in Scott Morrison’s electorate is as good an example as any of federal politicians local big-noting with taxpayers funds.

It’s tacky, it stinks. It’s not what a federal government should be doing.

bridget mckenzie senate inquiry
Bridget McKenzie’s role in handing out the sports grants will be examined by a Senate committee. Photo: AAP

This invites a bigger question about these political acts of noblesse oblige – politicians are too busy trying to buy elections to consider what principles might be involved in making free with other people’s money.

For example, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack was delighted to open the new Sunshine Beach Surf Club in the electorate of Barnaby Joyce’s little mate, Llew O’Brien.

With the help of $2.5 million from the taxpayer, the club has built a flash bar, restaurant and event centre on its brilliant site overlooking the Sunshine surf.

Oh yes, there are better facilities for the life savers, cadets and nippers as well.

The previous bar and restaurant were more modest, very much Sunshine rather than neighbouring Noosa, yet still a fine spot.

I wonder how other bars, restaurants and events centres in the area feel about having to compete with such generously government-funded opposition?

That should be particularly galling for the Coalition’s IPA “small government” faction.

The best thing the Adventures of Bridget McKenzie could achieve is a re-think of federal government’s responsibilities.

The “they all do it” excuse isn’t good enough any more.

There are things that urgently need federal money – an increased Newstart allowance, social housing – that should take precedence over pork barrelling.

SOURCE: https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/national/2020/03/03/michael-pascoe-liberal-grants-costs/?utm_source=Adestra&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Morning%20News%20-%2020200303

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More than One Million Energy Customers privacy at risk: Credit cards, addresses and phone numbers vulnerable

ALERT for Seniors, Pensioners and those shopping in Malls … even at ‘Seniors’ meetings … Alinta has been approaching and luring customers with alleged cheaper power …

CAN you imagine a foreign-owned company like this … pulling the stunt like they did on the White Family … what a nice little money earner it would be for this Chinese-owned power companyBANKRUPTING Australians of their Family Farm over a contrived debt for missing a power payment? 

IS this yet another means for the CCP to acquire even more of Australia’s real estate?

Another reason why these foreign-owned companies cannot be trusted.

Ideology, greed, stupidity, these are the real reasons behind the sale of Australians assets to foreign entities.

KEY POINTS WHY AUSTRALIANS SHOULD QUESTION WHAT IS THE POINT OF THE FIRB?

whistleblower raised concerns about the poor protection of customer data inside Alinta

-and questioned the sale process of critical infrastructure to foreign companies

internal auditor EY, assigned Alinta a “red” or “significant” risk rating on key aspects of its privacy compliance

.if someone gained access to identity-proving information such as a driver licence, passport or Medicare number, they could use it to impersonate the owner online

Chow Tai Fook was given the green light to buy Alinta for $4 billion in April 2017 on the proviso it would satisfy a series of conditions not made public

.a year later it was given approval to buy the $1 billion Loy Yang B; which generates almost one-fifth of Victoria’s power *

-in 2018, FIRB made decisions on more than 11,000 proposals worth $163 billion and knocked back only five *

August 2019, FIRB chairman David Irvine paid homage to foreign investment, including Chinese yet noted China didn’t allow foreign ownership in key sectors

DESPITE the FIRB seeing an increased number of foreign investment proposals seeking access to data centres, and sensitive private data about Australians

-the FIRB has a preference for mitigation, rather than prohibition

Credit cards, addresses and phone numbers vulnerable: More than one million energy customers’ privacy at risk

By Adele Ferguson and Chris Gillett

March 1, 2020

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One of Australia’s biggest energy companies has put the privacy of its 1.1 million retail gas and electricity customers at risk due to “reckless” cyber security and data protection systems.

A joint investigation by The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and ABC’s 7.30 reveals that Chinese-owned Alinta Energy may be breaching Australian privacy laws by failing to protect its customers’ personal information.

Through its retail operations, Alinta collects names, addresses, birth dates, mobile numbers, Medicare and passport numbers, credit card details and in some cases individual health information.

A series of internal documents, confidential reports and emails leaked by a whistleblower show that almost three years after then-treasurer Scott Morrison approved the sale of Alinta to Chow Tai Fook on advice from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), the company’s privacy systems remain inadequate.

*The whistleblower was concerned about the poor protection of customer data inside Alinta and questioned the sale process of critical infrastructure to foreign companies.

Under privacy laws, companies must have the proper systems in place to protect customer and supplier information to mitigate the risk of a cyber attack that could result in identities being stolen or customer information misused.

One document, a June 2019 privacy compliance audit by its internal auditor EY, assigned Alinta a “red” or “significant” risk rating on key aspects of its privacy compliance. It said Alinta lacked proper oversight and structure to manage privacy and may not be adequately protecting personal information” and at times “doesn’t meet the requirements of privacy laws”.

The EY report said there was no framework to manage the company’s privacy obligations.

“This is likely to lead to personal information being inadvertently accessed or to the personal information data being used for a purpose other than the notified purpose (particularly in relation to the data analytics performed by the retail business intelligence team),” the report said.

Alinta declined an interview request but responded to a series of questions, including whether it had been warned it may be breaching Australian privacy laws. It said it “takes compliance with privacy laws seriously and we require a similar standard from all third-party contractors”.

It confirmed it conducted a privacy audit by an “independent third party” and described the report as highlighting “a number of positive aspects of our approach alongside a number of opportunities to improve”.

It said the report suggested “the need for a privacy management framework, privacy officer, encryption standards and data strategy were highlighted and have been progressed”.

Privacy expert, Dr Vanessa Teague from Melbourne University, assessed the EY report and described Alinta as having a cavalier attitude to privacy.

Alinta: Personal information at risk

Dr Teague said protecting personal information was important because if someone gained access to identity-proving information such as a driver licence, passport or Medicare number, they could use it to impersonate the owner online.

“This is often used for financial fraud, such as taking out a loan or credit card in your name. The innocent party might lose a great deal of money and end up apparently ‘owing’ what they never borrowed,” she said.

*Chow Tai Fook was given the green light to buy Alinta for $4 billion in April 2017 on the proviso it would satisfy a series of conditions that weren’t made public.

A year later it was given approval to buy the $1 billion Loy Yang B, an electricity power generation plant in Victoria which generates almost one-fifth of Victoria’s power.

The leaked material features highly-sensitive internal documents including a list of more than 10 secret FIRB conditions, which largely relate to data security.

How the Deal was Done

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Graphic: Mark Stehle

The FIRB was set up in 1975 to advise the Treasurer on large foreign takeovers and critical infrastructure.

*In 2018, FIRB made decisions on more than 11,000 proposals worth $163 billion and knocked back only five.

“There clearly wasn’t much pre-vetting or due diligence done in the sale of Alinta otherwise how could they [the government] allow a company with such a reckless approach to privacy and data be sold to an overseas company,” the whistleblower said.

A statement from a Treasury spokesperson in response to a series of questions sent to FIRB said it wasn’t its practice to comment on foreign investors or compliance matters.

It said Alinta was engaging constructively with FIRB to implement remedial activities endorsed by FIRB. “Whilst FIRB is engaging with Alinta it would not be appropriate to comment further,” the statement said.

FIRB promotes critical infrastructure and data security as a high priority. In a speech in August 2019, FIRB chairman David Irvine paid homage to foreign investment, including Chinese investment, but pointed out that many countries, like China didn’t allow foreign ownership in key sectors.

*“In recent years, the FIRB has seen an increased number of foreign investment proposals seeking access to data centres and other facilities, that house, or have access to, sensitive private data about Australians.

Consistent with our preference for mitigation, rather than prohibition, the development of data security conditions continues to be a key area of focus for the FIRB.” *

An email from Alinta’s legal department in October 2019 flagged potential issues with one of FIRB’s conditions that requires Alinta – and third party contractors – to store Alinta data in Australia.

The email said Electricity Monster, a third party used by Alinta and other companies including French-owned SimplyEnergy, to sign up retail customers, stored customer information in New Zealand and backed it up in Singapore.

The email said, “Electricity Monster does not currently have plans to provide an onshore data storage solution”.

The email noted that the issue had been raised with one of the sales managers who wanted to “get in a room to understand the FIRB conditions and impact on the sales team. It said: “is this something that we can sit down and discuss..?”

Alinta operates call centres in Perth and the Philippines. It said customer data was stored in secure data centres in Australia.

Another document, titled FIRB Remedial Conditions – Timelines & Milestones, reveals Alinta has a long way to go to comply with some of the conditions.

For instance, it sets itself a June 2020 milestone to complete a review of “all third party agreements to identify FIRB compliance” and to “implement processes to ensure it… has appropriate security controls in place to prevent the export of bulk personal data records… and reach a compliant state.”

Then there is a June 2019 EY internal privacy review, which included a set of recommendations, many of which should already be in place, but are yet to be implemented.

They include that Alinta introduce a privacy management framework “which clearly defines roles and responsibilities for the management of privacy at an organisational level and defines Alinta’s position on privacy compliance.”

When asked if it was complying with FIRB conditions, it said, “Alinta is treated as being in compliance with the conditions imposed by FIRB while it continues to implement remedial activities endorsed by FIRB”. It said the expectation of FIRB was never that Alinta trigger multiple breaches of its contractual obligations to be fully compliant with all conditions on day one. “The expectation is, however, that Alinta Energy take steps to transition themselves into full compliance with all conditions within a reasonable timeframe having regard to these arrangements, and that is what has been occurring in a planned and monitored way.”

It said “remedial activities” would be completed by the end of the year, almost four years since FIRB and Mr Morrison approved the takeover and conditions.

Under Chow Tai Fook, Alinta has aggressively signed up new customers, setting itself a target of 2000 customers a day. It recently slowed to less than 1000 a day. As customers surged, so did complaints.

In 2015-2016, pre-ownership change, Alinta customer complaints were 377 compared with 2486 in 2018-2019, according to statistics from the Australian Energy Regulator.

Complaints include misleading sales tactics to sign up customers. In a statement, Alinta said complaints data indicated its current complaint rate was “statistically similar to its competitors or the industry average”. It said it takes customer service seriously. “It’s the key to us continuing to succeed in the energy market.”

The White family describes Alinta’s customer service as “disgusting”. A third-generation dairy farming family, they were blindsided in late 2019 when a bankruptcy notice was served on 80-year-old David White after the family says it missed a $2000 payment on an electricity bill.

“There was no letter saying, you know, your account will be disconnected. It went from nothing to bankruptcy, right before Christmas,” said Mr White’s daughter-in-law, Carolyn Waite.

Alinta Energy pursued 80-year-old David White (right), and his family (left) for bankruptcy while bushfires threatened their dairy farm in King Valley in Victoria's High Country. Picture: Ron Ekkel
Alinta Energy pursued 80-year-old David White (right), and his family (left) for bankruptcy while bushfires threatened their dairy farm in King Valley in Victoria’s High Country. Picture: Ron EkkelCREDIT:

The family sold assets to repay the outstanding debt of more than $20,000 to remove the bankruptcy threat. But in mid-January, as they were fighting bushfires, Alinta returned, this time demanding they pay its legal bill or the bankruptcy proceedings would continue.

“I explained the situation and that now was not the time to be calling. But she [the lawyer from Alinta] would not take no for an answer about $7000 in lawyers’ costs that we had outstanding with Alinta,” Ms Waite said.

“I needed to get my kids out, I needed to make sure our livestock was safe. The cows needed to be milked, and we did not know what would happen over the next few days with the weather conditions that were predicted… There was no emotion from her whatsoever. She couldn’t care less.”

Alinta declined to comment on the White family, citing privacy reasons. It said bankruptcy notices were used as a last resort.

On January 31, the Federal Circuit Court ordered the dismissal of the bankruptcy petition and that Alinta pay the White’s costs of $6824.80.

We were treated like we didn’t matter. We were just another number… There was no compassion. It was like speaking to a robot. There was nothing there. It was pretty disgusting,” she said.

*The ABC’s 7.30 program will feature a report on the issue on Monday.

Adele Ferguson

Adele Ferguson is a Gold Walkley Award winning investigative journalist. She reports and comments on companies, markets and the economy.

SOURCE: https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/credit-cards-addresses-and-phone-numbers-vulnerable-more-than-one-million-energy-customers-privacy-at-risk-20200228-p545bw.html#comments