Claims that North Korea could fire nuclear weapons at the continental US present a serious threat to global security. But its hostile activities don’t end there. North Korea has also become an aggressive cyber power, regularly using cyber attacks to advance its interests.
Last month, a threat intelligence firm, Recorded Future, reported that North Korea may have been using New Zealand’s internet networks as proxies to launch cyber attacks worldwide. The New Zealand government’s Communications Security Bureau is assessing the veracity of these claims.
The report suggests that North Korea may have both a physical and a virtual presence in New Zealand. It raised the possibility of a network of “patriot hackers” using New Zealand cyber networks to pursue the aims of the North Korean regime.
North Korea’s history of cyber attacks
Cyber attacks have become a wide-ranging tool in the arsenal of authoritarian governments to coerce and intimidate foreign governments, to subvert democratic processes, and to impose costs on their adversaries.
In North Korea’s case, this pattern of activity stretches back many years. North Korea is estimated to have an army of 6,000 hackers, engaging in malicious cyber activity regularly.
In March 2013, hackers linked to North Korea attacked South Korean banks and media agencies, causing widespread disruption. In November 2014, cyber attacks against Sony Pictures followed the release of the film The Interview, which caricatured and mocked the North Korean leader.
In 2016, a Bangladeshi bank became the victim of North Korean hackers. Reports said that US$81 million were lost through compromised financial transactions.
Most recently, the WannaCry ransomware attack, which affected computers in more than 150 countries, has been linked to the Lazarus group of hackers, which has links to the North Korean regime. This suggests North Korea is now using state-sponsored hackers to help raise revenue for a country starved of access to international markets and funding.
Cyber attacks further threat to nuclear security
Analysis of North Korea’s activities often misses the connections between cyber and nuclear security. North Korea’s nuclear program has itself become a victim of cyber attacks.
A report in the New York Times in March this year revealed that the Obama administration ordered a campaign of cyber subversion aimed at North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. It mirrors the now infamous Stuxnet attacks directed against Iran in 2010.
In the absence of progress on North Korean disarmament, delaying its ability to pursue nuclear weapon programs through cyber attacks has become a feature of US strategy. It’s a strategy that may yield short-term results, but presents significant escalatory dangers.
Cyber attacks pose increasingly serious risks to classified nuclear information, the security of nuclear facilities, and the integrity of the components that nuclear arms and missile technologies rely on.
Last year, the UK government was warned that its trident nuclear submarine program was vulnerable to cyber intrusions. The think-tank report Hacking UK Trident: A Growing Threat argued that a cyber attack directed against the submarines could:
… neutralise operations, lead to loss of life, defeat or perhaps even the catastrophic exchange of nuclear warheads (directly or indirectly).
Another concerning aspect of the cyber-nuclear nexus is that hacking could facilitate the proliferation of nuclear materials and technology to other aggressive states and non-state actors.
Reining in North Korea
The growing connections between nuclear and cyber security are changing the strategic balance between nuclear powers in subtle and undetermined ways. Approaches to dealing with the North Korean regime must treat these issues as related.
So what can be done about North Korea’s aggressive use of the internet? Unfortunately, just as with its nuclear program, there few good options. Sanctions imposed on the regime for its cyber activity, such as those following the Sony hack, have proved ineffective at changing the regime’s behaviour.
China and Russia may have a role to play in persuading Kim Jong-un to “play nicely” in cyberspace, but both countries also have a long history of malicious cyber operations.
There are examples where states have given up destructive weapons programs. These include Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in Libya and the more recent Iran deal. However, the difficulty of verifying whether offensive cyber programs have been dismantled presents a major obstacle.
Cyber armies operating from a virtual realm can easily be hidden. Given that punishing the North Korean regime for its behaviour has not yielded results, it may be time to start thinking about a range of positive inducements to bring the country back into the international community, including offering diplomatic talks without precondition.
Rewarding North Korea for its errant behaviour may be unpalatable, but the combined danger of its nuclear and cyber capabilities would appear to warrant a significant shift in strategy.
We have it from the New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English that Barnaby Joyce is a citizen of his country. We have it from the Australian Constitution that you can’t be a federal MP if you are a dual national.
We have it from Malcolm Turnbull that “the deputy prime minister is qualified to sit in this house and the High Court will so hold”.
Work that one out.
Section 44 (i) bans from being a candidate anyone who “is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power”.
Joyce had been dismissive of media questions on the possibility he might be a citizen of New Zealand, where his father was born.
Then, on Thursday, Chris Seed, the New Zealand high commissioner, rang Joyce’s office with the worst of news. After Seed briefed Joyce’s chief-of-staff, Joyce instantly rang back, and the two met around 5.30.
The New Zealand Labour opposition had lodged questions on notice, which had to be answered the following week. There was also Australian media questioning of the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs.
While the parliamentary questions didn’t name Joyce, they obviously referred to him. Chris Hipkins, MP for Rimutaka, asked whether a child born in Australia to a New Zealand father would automatically have New Zealand citizenship.
Seed said the preliminary advice from the department was that Joyce was indeed a New Zealand citizen – a position English confirmed publicly on Monday.
The Turnbull government quickly sought advice from the federal solicitor-general, Stephen Donaghue; it came back on Sunday. It is understood that the advice focused on the reason for Section 44 (i) – to prevent allegiance to another country – and canvassed tests in relation to this.
Was the person born overseas?
Was he on a list of citizens of the other country?
Had he ever applied for citizenship of the country?
Had he ever sworn any sort of oath of acquiescence to the other country?
On these measures, according to the advice, the High Court would be expected to come down in Joyce’s favour.
The advice notwithstanding, constitutional expert Anne Twomey, from Sydney University Law School, is surprised Turnbull has been so unequivocal about the decision on Joyce.
“I’m not as confident as the prime minister seems to be,” she says. She believes that Joyce “potentially has a real problem”. But it is a matter of how the court interprets Section 44 (i), she says.
It may draw a distinction between citizenship by descent and other citizenship, Twomey says. “Or it could say the purpose of the provision is to prevent dual allegiance – and if you didn’t know [you were a foreign citizen] you were not breaching the purpose.”
The High Court mightn’t relish Turnbull – his barrister background notwithstanding – telling it what it will decide. But there’ll be a lot more at stake in its judgement on Joyce than the risk of Turnbull – and the solicitor-general, for that matter – being embarrassingly wrong.
If Joyce, the Nationals leader, were found in breach and so knocked out of parliament, that would create massive turmoil not just for the minor Coalition partner but for a government with a one-seat majority.
There’d be a byelection in his seat of New England, where in 2016 Joyce held off a challenge from the former independent member, Tony Windsor.
Joyce, who is busy divesting himself of his New Zealand citizenship, would no doubt run again and possibly face Windsor. While he had a comfortable win last time, byelections are dangerous, because they are custom-made for a protest vote.
The process would run into months. The Nationals would be effectively leaderless. The government would have lost its majority in the House of Representatives. It would be all right on supply and confidence, thanks to agreements with some crossbenchers, and would still get most legislation through. But where all the crossbenchers sided with Labor it would be in trouble.
It would be in nightmare territory, with Labor having endless opportunity for disruption.
Assuming Turnbull is right that Joyce will be found in the clear, the immediate situation is still very bad for the government. It’s another distraction, and a serious one, internally and externally.
On Thursday week there is a directions hearing for four others who are before the High Court in relation to Section 44 (i) – One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts and former minister Matt Canavan, from the Nationals, as well as the two Greens, Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam, who have already resigned.
The Joyce referral will join them. But the decision could be anytime between October and December, a very long period for uncertainty to swirl around the future of a key member of the government’s leadership team.
Turnbull tried to drag Bill Shorten in the shambles by offering to wrap into the referral any Labor MPs whose citizenship qualifications are dubious. Shorten, unsurprisingly, rebuffed him. Labor appears confident a tough vetting process means its MPs are in the clear. Nevertheless the government is throwing around names.
Labor jumped on the double standard being applied to Canavan – who quit cabinet and isn’t voting in parliament – and Joyce, who is keeping his positions and voting.
The government claims it is also confident about Canavan, while admitting the circumstances are different – not in a good way – by virtue of the fact his mother applied for his Italian citizenship, allegedly without his knowledge, and he was listed as an Italian national at the time of his election.
The realpolitik, however, is that Canavan is a senator. In the Senate, which has been hit by multiple resignations and referrals, those already politically dead and gone and the walking wounded are being accommodated so the numbers aren’t out of kilter.
And Canavan’s exit from cabinet, while inconvenient, is not a disaster, although ironically it is Joyce who is doing his former ministerial jobs of resources and northern Australia.
In the finely balanced House of Representatives the situation is precarious, and the government is certainly not going to live more dangerously than it absolutely has to.
Anyway, the Nationals would find it intolerable if they were without their leader in cabinet for months while his fate is being decided by the court. Especially when the future of energy policy is the biggest issue before the government between now and Christmas.
The Conversation fact-checks claims made on Q&A, broadcast Mondays on the ABC at 9.35pm. Thank you to everyone who sent us quotes for checking via Twitter using hashtags #FactCheck and #QandA, on Facebook or by email.
Q&A AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi. Renewable energy is more carbon-efficient, and now cheaper, than coal and other fossil fuels …
MATT CANAVAN: Thanks, James. Look, I don’t accept that renewables are, at the moment, cheaper than coal.
– Excerpt from a question posed by Q&A audience member James Newbold to then-Resources Minister Senator Matt Canavan on Q&A, July 17, 2017.
One of the biggest debates underway in Australia (and around the world) is about electricity, and how it should be generated. One of the major pressure points is prices.
During an episode of Q&A, audience member James Newbold said renewable energy is “now cheaper than coal and other fossil fuels”. Senator Matt Canavan (then-Resources Minister) disagreed, saying: “I don’t accept that renewables are, at the moment, cheaper than coal.”
The Conversation contacted Matt Canavan’s spokesperson for sources to support his statement but did not hear back before deadline. Nonetheless, we can test his statement against publicly available data.
What do the data show?
Based on the electricity generated now by old coal-fired power stations with sunk costs (meaning money that has already been spent and cannot be recovered), Matt Canavan was right to say: “I don’t accept that renewables are, at the moment, cheaper than coal.”
In 2017, the marginal cost of generating power from an already existing coal station is less than $40/MWh, while wind power is $60-70/MWh (explained below). So why do peoplesay renewables are now cheaper than coal?
Well, they’re often talking about what would be the cheaper option if old coal-fired power stations were replaced today – in other words, the new-build price.
Making the distinction between the cost of existing energy generation, and the cost of new-build energy generation in this debate is very important. Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.
Current prices are based on existing installations, while new-build prices compare the costs of different technologies if their operating lives started today. This matters because Australia’s existing coal-fired power stations are ageing and will need to be replaced.
Comparing new-build prices is more complicated than comparing current costs, as I’ll discuss later in this FactCheck.
How do we measure the cost of electrical power?
Let’s cover the basic terminology first.
Electrical energy is measured in kilowatt-hours – the units generally used for metering and charging residential electricity use. One kilowatt-hour represents the amount of energy a device that draws one kilowatt of power (like a household heater, for example) would use in one hour.
A megawatt-hour is 1,000 times larger, and it’s what we typically use to measure large electricity loads or generators. So when we’re comparing the cost of electrical energy generated by different sources, we’ll be talking about Australian dollars per megawatt-hour ($/MWh).
Comparing prices for different sources of electricity
There are a few things we need to take into account when we’re calculating the cost of electricity created by different technologies.
First, we need to factor in how much it costs to establish the source in the first place – whether that’s a coal-fired power station, a wind farm or a hydro-power plant. Then we need to factor in how much it costs to operate, fuel and maintain that facility over its lifetime.
These factors and the cost of capital (like the interest rate) are commonly combined into a metric called the “levelised cost of electricity” (or the LCOE). This provides a measure of the total cost in current dollars per unit of electrical energy generated ($/MWh) over the lifetime of the facility.
We also need to know the time frame in question. A coal-fired power station that’s nearing the end of its operating life may have recovered its original capital investment. So the marginal cost of coal-fired electricity may be low, compared to the levelised cost of a new wind farm that’s yet to recoup its initial capital cost.
Using the levelised costs of electricity created by different technologies does always not provide a perfect comparison. Comparing such different technologies will never be comparing apples with apples. But it’s the best measure we’ve got for a simple “plug-and-play” replacement of a single generating source.
A similar price was struck in March 2016 when the Australian Capital Territory government conducted its second “wind auction”. The government uses wind auctions to buy contracts for future energy supplies. The lowest price in the 2016 auction yielded around $60/MWh in current prices. This figure is based on a flat rate of $77/MWh for 20 years and assuming around 3% inflation, which is the upper end of Australia’s inflation rate target of 2-3%.
Combining the total price range for that auction with this inflation range gives around $60-$70/MWh in current prices, with wind farms currently operating in that adjusted range.
So, based on the marginal cost of energy generated by existing coal-fired power stations with sunk costs, Canavan is correct in saying that renewables are not “at the moment, cheaper than coal”.
However, the story is different if we are talking about new-build electricity prices. And this is often where conversations and debates become confused.
Why new-build electricity prices matter
Coal-fired power stations in Australia have operating lives of around 50 years. As can be seen from the table below, nine of Australia’s 12 biggest operating coal-fired power stations are more than 30 years old.
In preparation for the retirement of those older coal-fired stations, policymakers, energy companies and other investors are debating whether to replace them with new coal-fired power stations, or other types of energy generation. This is where the comparison of new-build costs comes into play.
FactChecks rely on data from events that have already occurred. So we can’t say with factual certainty whether or not renewables would be cheaper than coal as a new-build energy source, because no coal-fired power stations have been built recently.
But we do have recent prices for the cheapest form of new-build renewable energy, which is newly-installed wind power.
And we do have recent levelised price projections for the cheapest new-build fossil fuel energy, which is supercritical coal power.
These projections for new supercritical coal power are higher than the recent prices for newly-installed wind power (outlined earlier in the FactCheck) at around $60-70/MWh in current prices over the 20-year contract period (which is similar to a levelised cost).
So, if we look at recent wind power prices and recent price projections for new supercritical coal power, it’s reasonable to say that – as things stand today – wind power would be the cheaper new-build source of electricity.
There are important additional factors that need to be taken into account when considering the costs of new-build coal-fired electricity and new-build renewable electricity as we look further into the future. Three of the main considerations are:
upgrades to the energy grid (including energy storage) to balance the use of intermittent renewables, especially once renewable energy exceeds around 50% of all energy supply (this would increase the price of renewables)
improvements in technology (this is expected to reduce the price of renewables more so than coal).
It is possible to make educated assumptions about how these factors would affect prices in the future. But I won’t include those projections in this FactCheck, for two reasons:
firstly, we are yet to see the outcomes, and
secondly, the Q&A audience member and Canavan were discussing prices as they are “now” and “at the moment”.
So that’s what I’ve addressed in this FactCheck.
Based on the electricity generated now by old coal-fired power stations with sunk costs, Matt Canavan was right to say: “I don’t accept that renewables are, at the moment, cheaper than coal”. In 2017, the marginal cost of generating power from an already existing coal station is less than $40/MWh, while wind power is $60-70/MWh.
The Q&A audience member may have been talking about new-build prices.
Based on recent prices for newly-installed wind power of around $60-70/MWh, and recent price projections for new supercritical coal power at around $75/MWh, it is reasonable to say that – as things stand today – wind power would be cheaper than coal as a new-build source of electricity. – Ken Baldwin
The author has provided a sound FactCheck that covers a lot of the complexities around a challenging issue. I would add one remark which doesn’t detract from the author’s verdict.
The cost of new-build coal is likely to be higher than reported in the FactCheck.
The author was correct to point out that the introduction of a price on carbon emissions would increase the cost of new-build coal-fired electricity.
The mere possibility of the introduction of a price on carbon or carbon regulation in the future actually affects the costs of new-build coal-fired electricity today. The risk of increased costs or regulation for emission intensive generators manifests itself as a higher “risk premium” applied to current financing costs. The overall effect is a higher weighted average cost of capital (basically, a higher average interest rate) for emission intensive generation.
In the Finkel review, the weighted average cost of capital for coal is projected to be 14.9%, compared to 7.1% for renewables. Risk adjusted financing costs would result in the levelised cost of new coal being higher than the figures presented in the FactCheck. – Dylan McConnell
The cost of electricity produced from a new wind farm is competitive with the best estimates for the cost of electricity produced from a new coal station, and cheaper than the cost of new coal quoted in very reputable analyses (CO2CRC 2015 and CSIRO 2017).
As noted by the author, the comparison in this FactCheck does not include the cost of intermittency for renewables. Recognising that no technology runs 100% of the time, there is a backup cost to be added to wind to make it as firm (or stable) as a fuel-based plant. Available costs for such backup, such as large scale battery or pumped storage, are based on estimates and are the subject of much current study.
New wind with backup could very well be very competitive with new coal, particularly if the cost of emissions is recognised. However, at present, the contention either way is unproven. – Tony Wood
The Conversation’s FactCheck unit is the first fact-checking team in Australia and one of the first worldwide to be accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network, an alliance of fact-checkers hosted at the Poynter Institute in the US. Read more here.
Have you seen a “fact” worth checking? The Conversation’s FactCheck asks academic experts to test claims and see how true they are. We then ask a second academic to review an anonymous copy of the article. You can request a check at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the statement you would like us to check, the date it was made, and a link if possible.
The government has been rocked by advice from the New Zealand government that Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce might be a citizen of that country, making him ineligible to be a federal MP.
The government is referring the case to the High Court but Malcolm Turnbull, on the basis of legal advice that Joyce’s eligibility won’t be struck down, has asked him to remain in his positions. Section 44 rules out dual citizens standing for parliament.
Joyce told the House of Representatives on Monday morning: “Last Thursday afternoon, the New Zealand High Commission contacted me to advise that, on the basis of preliminary advice from their Department of Internal Affairs which had received inquiries from the New Zealand Labour Party, they considered that I may be a citizen by descent of New Zealand.”
Joyce said he had been shocked. “Neither I, nor my parents, have ever had any reason to believe that I may be a citizen of any other country.”
Joyce was born in Tamworth in 1967 to an Australian mother. “My father, who was born in New Zealand, came to Australia in 1947 as a British subject – in fact we were all British subjects at that time,” he said.
“The concept of New Zealand and Australian citizenship was not created until 1948. Neither my parents nor I have ever applied to register me as a New Zealand citizen.” The New Zealand government had no register recognising him as a New Zealand citizen, he said.
A New Zealand government website says: “If you were born overseas and at least one of your parents is a New Zealand citizen by birth or grant, you are an NZ citizen by descent. To get yourself an NZ passport, you need to register your citizenship.”
Turnbull said the government had sought advice from the solicitor-general. “The government is satisfied that the court would not find Mr Joyce disqualified to sit in the House.
“Nonetheless, in the interest of giving the court the opportunity to clarify the application of this section the government … has decided to refer the matter to the High Court sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns.”
Joyce said that he had asked for the matter to be referred to the court. “Given the strength of the legal advice the government has received, the prime minister has asked that I remain deputy prime minister and continue my ministerial duties.”
Turnbull has written to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to “offer you the opportunity to nominate any Labor members or senators whose circumstances may raise questions under Section 44 of the Constitution so that the parliament can also refer these matters to the High Court for its consideration.
“There are a number of cases already referred by the Senate and so it would be helpful if all relevant matters court be heard by the court at the same time,” Turnbull wrote.
Labor has not so far had any cases of actual or possible dual nationality arise in this parliament, in contrast to the Greens, the Coalition, and One Nation.
Nationals senator Matt Canavan recently resigned from cabinet, saying his mother had signed him up, without his knowledge, as an Italian citizen. He is disputing whether this is valid. His case is before the High Court. Joyce was sworn into Canavan’s ministerial duties of resources and northern Australia.
Last week the Senate referred One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts to the court to determine whether he was a dual British citizen when he nominated. Two Greens, Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam, resigned from the Senate after they found they were dual citizens, of Canada and New Zealand respectively.
Turnbull said in his letter that “It is manifestly in the national interest that the High Court have the opportunity to clarify the limits on the operation of Section 44(i) of the Constitution.
“With around half of all Australians having a foreign-born parent, and with many foreign nations having citizenship laws which confer citizenship by descent, regardless of place of birth, the potential for many, possibly millions of Australians unknowingly having dual citizenship is considerable.”
The loss of Joyce would wipe out the government’s one-seat majority, pending a byelection. At the last election, Joyce held off a challenge in his seat of New England from former independent member Tony Windsor.
The opposition is calling for Joyce to stand aside.
The manager of opposition business, Tony Burke, said in the house: “How on earth can this government have somebody in the office of deputy prime minister when they don’t even know if he’s supposed to be in the parliament?
“This is a government reliant on a majority of one.
“What the house is doing right now is saying to the High Court that we are not actually sure if the government does have a majority of one.
“Saying to the High Court of Australia that we have been here for twelve months making laws with a government that may or may not be legitimate. With a parliament that may or may not be voting according to the constitution of this country,” Burke said.
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English confirmed Joyce’s citizenship. “Unwittingly or not, he’s a New Zealand citizen,” he said.
“These things are almost always accidental,” English said.
Shorten has told Turnbull he has no-one he wants to refer to the High Court to clarify their status. Replying to Turnbull’s letter earlier in the day, Shorten wrote: “I acknowledge your offer to nominate other members or senators to the High Court. The Labor Party has the strictest processes in place to ensure all candidates are compliant with the Constitution prior to their nomination for election. Therefore, I politely decline your office.”
In Question Time Turnbull was unequivocal that Joyce’s position would be vindicated.
“The leader of the National Party, the deputy prime minister, is qualified to sit in this house and the High Court will so hold,” he declared.
He said the government did not refer Joyce to the court because of any doubt about his position, but rather because there was a need in the public interest for the court “to clarify the operation of this section so important to the operation of our parliament”.
Labor tried unsuccessfully to gag Joyce when he was asked a question.
The New Zealand government has an online tool to check whether people are NZ citizens.
Google’s recent sacking of James Damore for circulating a memo will do the tech giant more harm than good. Not only has the memo been incorrectly dubbed “anti-diversity”, but a majority of Google employees surveyed in a recent poll disagreed with the decision to fire Damore.
A more productive response to the memo would have been to setup an official channel for employees to air these kinds of issues. This way employees feel their views are heard and the company can take into account different points of view while formulating policy.
Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, wrote to all Google employees saying that Damore’s memo had crossed the line by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes in the workplace”. It might have been more advantageous to have a full and frank discussion of Google’s diversity policies and what they are intended to achieve.
Is it too dangerous to talk about diversity?
Although painted as “anti-diversity”, the memo itself raises issues of the alienation of conservative views at Google and the need to be able to discuss diversity more openly. In other words, diversity shouldn’t be a concept that people are scared to discuss openly for fear of being vilified or shamed.
Damore’s memo suggests that those with differing views on diversity are dismissed and vilified. The response to his memo seems to prove his point. This might in fact be the heart of the problem – fear of saying something politically incorrect might in fact be holding people back from understanding the need for diversity measures.
One study found that American corporate directors thought board diversity (in racial, ethnic and gender terms) was an important goal worth pursuing. But they seemed unable to substantiate this opinion with examples of how board diversity might help the company. The authors of the study concluded that diversity seemed to be a “dangerous” subject to talk about.
Shutting down differing views on the matter is antithetical to the idea of diversity. “Inner diversity”, meaning diversity of viewpoints and opinions, is as important as “outer diversity”, in terms of gender and ethnicity etc.
A Canadian report on women on company boards found that boards with more women surpass all male boards in their attention to audit and risk oversight and control. It also highlights that outer diversity (such as having more women on the board) is a proxy for inner diversity – it is a sign of different “gifts, skills, experiences, and perspectives”. If a company focuses singularly on outer diversity while discouraging diverse viewpoints it won’t realise the real benefits of diversity in the first place.
Rationales for diversity
The rationale for measures promoting diversity is twofold. Women and minority groups have to overcome many barriers including selection bias while being recruited. And diversity, particularly in problem-solving groups, is ultimately good for business.
Diversity measures seek to reduce (if not eliminate) biases by expanding or diversifying the pool of candidates being considered for each position. For example, programs where female candidates are given mentors opens up new opportunities.
Damore’s memo argues the biological differences between men and women might be one of the reasons for the low number of women in the tech industry. However, recent neuroscience research shows there is not enough evidence to conclude that there are significant differences in the male and female brain. So while Damore’s view is not unequivocal, this perception could impede the effectiveness of diversity measures.
Other research shows that more men than women study computer science, engineering, physics and mathematics in the US. This could account for some of the gender disparity in tech companies. However, this is not true in all countries.
For instance, women make up nearly half of computer science and computer engineering students in India. It might be interesting to study what factors deter women in the US from studying these subjects.
But in order to address these issues it is necessary to be able to discuss them, and then assess what a diversity policy is intended to fix. To that end, companies must create forums and events to discuss the rationales for diversity policies and also allow employees to voice their views in this regard.
A starting point could be to have employees fill out anonymous surveys to gauge perception of diversity policies. Based on this, appropriate discussions can be encouraged. Companies could also consider making the rationale for the diversity policy available along with the policy itself. This process will result in more informed policy choices and perhaps a more inclusive work culture.
On Wednesday evening, the New South Wales state government passed legislation empowering police to dismantle the Martin Place homeless camp in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. This follows similar actions in Victoria, where police cleared a homeless camp outside Flinders Street Station. Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle proposed a bylaw to ban rough sleeping in the city.
In March, the UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, censured the City of Melbourne’s actions, stating that:
… the criminalisation of homelessness is deeply concerning and violates international human rights law.
As the special rapporteur highlighted, homelessness is already “a gross violation of the right to adequate housing”. To further discriminate against people rendered homeless by systemic injustice is prohibited under international human rights law.
After negotiating with camp organisers, Moore made it clear her council would not disperse the camp until permanent housing was found for all of the residents. As she pointed out:
You can’t solve homelessness without housing — what we urgently need is more affordable housing and we urgently need the New South Wales government to step up and do their bit.
It’s no secret that housing affordability in both Sydney and Melbourne has reached crisis point. And homelessness is an inevitable consequence of this. But we have seen little real action from government to resolve these issues.
The NSW government has been offering people temporary crisis accommodation or accommodation on the outskirts of the city. This leaves them isolated from community and without access to services.
In contrast, these inner-city camps don’t just provide shelter, food, safety and community; they also send a powerful political message to government that it must act to resolve the housing affordability crisis.
Having established well-defined rules of conduct, a pool of shared resources and access to free shelter and food, the Martin Place camp can be seen as part of the commons movement.
This movement seeks to create alternative models of social organisation to challenge the prevailing market-centric approaches imposed by neoliberalism and to reclaim the Right to the City.
It is not surprising that right-wing pundits have described these camps as “eyesores” or that they make NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian “completely uncomfortable”. The breach of human rights these camps represent, and the challenge they pose to the current system, should make people uncomfortable.
Unlike most comparable nations, Australia has very limited legal protections for human rights. In this context, actions like the Martin Place and Flinders Street camps are one of the few options available to victims of systemic injustice to exercise their democratic right to hold government to account.
In seeking to sweep this issue under the carpet, both the City of Melbourne and the NSW government are not only further breaching the right to adequate housing, they are also trying to silence political protest.
It is clear from Moore’s demands, and the NSW government’s own actions, that the Martin Place camp is working to create pressure for action. What will motivate the government to resolve this crisis once the camps have been dispersed?
As Nelson Mandela argued in 1991 at the ANC’s Bill of Rights Conference:
A simple vote, without food, shelter and health care, is to use first-generation rights as a smokescreen to obscure the deep underlying forces which dehumanise people. It is to create an appearance of equality and justice, while by implication socioeconomic inequality is entrenched.
We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom. We must provide for all the fundamental rights and freedoms associated with a democratic society.
Mandela’s words were hugely relevant to apartheid South Africa, where a ruling elite had established a deeply racist and unjust system that linked political disenfranchisement and material deprivation. But they also resonate today in Australia where inequality is on the rise – driven in large part by disparities in property ownership.
Homelessness is a deeply dehumanising force that strips people of access to fundamental rights. The policies that are creating this crisis must be seen as unacceptable breaches of human rights. We need to start asking whether our current economic system is compatible with a truly democratic society.
A week ago, the leaked transcript of the January telephone call between Malcolm Turnbull and Donald Trump revealed Turnbull had told the president, “You can count on me. I will be there again and again.”
Now, as the US-North Korea verbal war intensifies, with fears it could run into a military conflict, Turnbull has made specific that general pledge.
In extended comments on Melbourne’s 3AW on Friday, Turnbull declared: “Be under no misapprehension – in terms of defence we [Australia and US] are joined at the hip”.
“Let’s be very clear … If there is an attack on the United States by North Korea, then the ANZUS treaty will be invoked and Australia will come to the aid of the United States, just as if there was an attack on Australia, the United States would come to our aid.”
Asked what would happen in the event of an attack on the US territory of Guam, Turnbull said: “We would come to the aid of the United States. Now, how that manifests itself will obviously depend on the circumstances and the consultations with our allies.”
North Korea is threatening to launch missiles not at Guam itself but in the ocean nearby.
Ahead of a Friday briefing from military chiefs and intelligence and foreign policy experts, Turnbull underlined his point: “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States”. The worsening crisis was among topics discussed in a Thursday night telephone conversation between Turnbull and US vice-president Mike Pence.
The 1951 ANZUS treaty says: “The Parties will consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened in the Pacific”. (Article III)
“Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.” (Article IV)
Despite the tight alliance, only once has ANZUS been invoked – by John Howard after the September 11 2001 attacks.
Mostly, when Australia has stood with the US militarily, the treaty has been not relevant or not needed.
Nor has ANZUS or the wider American alliance meant the US automatically supports Australia. Australian efforts to get America involved in regional clashes, notably Indonesia’s claims to West New Guinea, and the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation of the 1960s, were met with resistance.
Geoffrey Barker wrote in 2015, “In fact the US commitment to ANZUS has never been as strong as the Australian commitment”.
While Turnbull has trumpeted the message that Australia would support the US in a conflict with North Korea, Hugh White, professor of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University, believes he has given a narrow, literal interpretation of the treaty and gone further than he had to.
“He’s missed the point that we have the right to judge our interests”, White says.
“Under article IV there is an obligation to act – there’s no obligation to act by contributing military forces. It’s always acknowledged that each side has the right to make a judgement about the kind of response it makes.”
The judgement, White argues, would depend on the particular circumstances. He outlines four scenarios of military conflict.
– an attack by the United States on North Korea, which some believed Trump was building up to in his words earlier this week, when he said continued threats to the US "will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen";
– an attack by North Korea on the US;
– North Korea firing its missiles to near Guam, but not on Guam;
– A pre-emptive strike by the US to prevent North Korea completing the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability.
White says that Turnbull has walked past the complexities of what might happen, and asks: “Is it in Australia’s interests to encourage the US by saying we’d support it unconditionally”?
Foreign minister Julie Bishop had been more circumspect. When it was put to her this week that we would be in the fight, if it came to that, given both ANZUS and Australia’s being a party to the Korean War ceasefire, she said: “In fact we were not a party in the legal sense to the armistice so there is no automatic trigger for Australia to be involved. As far as the ANZUS alliance is concerned, that is an obligation to consult. But of course we have been in constant discussion with our friends in the United States”.
Bishop carefully kept options open.
It is worth noting, however, that Kim Beazley, a former defence minister, has a different view of the ceasefire agreement. He wrote in The Strategist: “At the signing of the armistice in Korea in 1953 we agreed, with South Korea’s allies, that we would defend the South in the event of an attack by the North.”
If Australia became involved in a military conflict, it would be a limited contribution. It would be presence, rather than capability, that (as usual) would be important to the Americans.
As has become evident, Trump’s presidency presents Australia with serious management challenges in the alliance relationship, which is built into the foundations of Australian security policy.
This presidency is unlike any of its modern predecessors, and judging how to handle it is extremely difficult for the government. It’s interesting to note the new administration hasn’t yet even posted an ambassador to Australia.
Turnbull, with his personalised style of operating, has chosen to try to get up close and personal, talking as one businessman to another. Hence the “you can count on me” sort of line.
Turnbull may later nuance his Friday comments, but as they stand, they lock Australia into the unpredictability of unpredictable players. They also reflect, unvarnished, the reality that Australia always answers America’s call.
Debate persists over whether this is an absolute guarantee, but Turnbull left no wiggle room in his declaration that Australia would regard an attack on the US as a casus belli. He said:
America stands by its allies, including Australia, and we stand by the United States. So be very clear on that. If there’s an attack on the US, the ANZUS Treaty would be invoked and Australia would come to the aid of the United States, as America would come to our aid if we were attacked.
Turnbull’s forthright intervention might be regarded as fairly unexceptional were it not for the fact it aligns Australia with a US president untested in a crisis, and one who has shown a predisposition to shoot from the lip.
In effect, Turnbull is mortgaging Australian security policy to an unpredictable commander-in-chief whose instincts may be to take the safety catch off first and ask questions later.
Turnbull should remind himself that recent experience in which an Australian predecessor followed the US precipitately into the sands of Mesopotamia did not end well.
In his interview Turnbull might have calibrated his remarks more carefully when he said that: “In terms of defence, we are joined at the hip”.
This recalls unfortunate prime ministerial contributions such as Harold Holt’s “all the way with LBJ” at the time of Vietnam, or John Howard’s characterisation of Australia as America’s “deputy sheriff” in the Asia-Pacific. We can do without these sorts of glib statements.
Turnbull’s undertaking to apply the ANZUS Treaty should the US be attacked recalls Howard’s decision in September 2001 to invoke the treaty’s mutual defence elements after the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
This activation of Australia’s security obligations under ANZUS was largely pro forma. No follow-up ensued that could be described as action under the treaty itself. Australia’s support for the US in Afghanistan was part of a NATO deployment.
The question then becomes: how seriously should we regard an escalating war of words between a US president and North Korea in which Donald Trump has doubled down on his earlier “fire and fury” threats?
No-one should make light of the risks involved of a conflagration on the Korean Peninsula, which remains potentially the epicentre of the world’s most-destructive conflict. Nor should threats by North Korea’s idiosyncratic leader Kim Jong-un to fire a missile toward the American Pacific territory of Guam be dismissed as a stunt.
Where the real risks lie in a volatile environment is a miscalculation that could precipitate conflict that spirals out of control with unpredictable – possibly terrible – consequences.
South Korea’s vulnerability to a North Korea first – or retaliatory – strike cannot be overstated. The South Korean capital, Seoul, is within range of North Korean artillery, leaving aside a nuclear threat.
This raises the question of the extent to which North Korea has acquired the ability to arm its missile systems with a nuclear warhead, and whether intelligence reports of its development of a “miniaturised” nuclear device are correct.
It is not clear that North Korea has achieved this level of sophistication. However, no responsible leader can afford to exclude the possibility that North Korea is further advanced in its nuclear program than had been assumed.
In an analysis on the war of words that has erupted between Trump and Kim, the Council on Foreign Relations put it this way:
The war of words underscores both the American rejection of the idea of vulnerability to a nuclear-armed Kim and the increasing dangers of miscalculation that would accompany a North Korean capability to follow through on its past offensive threats to strike the United States with a nuclear weapon.
The intensity of the rhetorical escalation underscores the fact that North Korea is on a trajectory of confrontation with Washington that Defence Secretary James Mattis characterised as “catastrophic”.
Since there is no chance of Kim giving up his nuclear capability short of ironclad US guarantees of his regime’s survival, the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear pretensions will likely remain intractable. What represents the best outcome is a de-escalation of tensions, an end to the war of words, and some prospect of negotiations that would rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
If there is a model for such an arrangement it lies in the Obama administration’s agreement with Iran that led to an effective freezing of its nuclear program. Unhelpfully, the Trump administration persists in claiming Iran is breaching this agreement – without supporting evidence.
This is especially destructive at a moment when the US and its allies need to reduce tensions, not add to them.
In all of this, the best outcome is for North Korea to be drawn back into negotiations on its nuclear program under the threat of escalating sanctions to which China and Russia are party.
In the meantime, as the Council on Foreign Relations puts it:
The more the crisis escalates, the greater the dangers of miscalculation, and the harder it will be for either side to find an exit ramp from a high-stakes crisis.
Talk of the next Cuban missile crisis may be premature, but the risks of a destructive conflict in which nuclear weapons are deployed cannot be disregarded. This is shaping as the Trump administration’s first big security policy crisis.
On August 8, US President Donald Trump used his most extreme language yet in relation to North Korea. He warned the regime’s leader, Kim Jong-un, that any North Korean aggression will be “met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before”, if it does not stop threatening the US.
Trump said North Korea’s threats had gone “beyond a normal state” and that “North Korea best not make any more threats”. But his reaction is at odds with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent comments that the US is open to dialogue with North Korea and is not seeking regime change.
And by promising “fire and fury” Trump actually plays into Kim’s hands and replicates the aggressive and posturing rhetoric of the North Korean regime.
North Korean state media predictably responded with reports Kim is “actively considering” a pre-emptive missile attack on the US Pacific island territory of Guam, with the country’s military experts reportedly drawing up plans for this.
The role of personality
One of Trump’s clear goals from the beginning of his campaign for the presidency was his desire to be seen as a strongman on the national and international stage.
His level of ego and his obsession with appearing to be the aggressor is all very well at a town hall rally. But on the international stage it is an incredibly risky part of his personality that places the entire Asian region – if not the world – at risk.
So-called strongmen bring a distinct style and flair to international crises. Trump wants to sort things out personally. This often means he is prepared to ignore the advice of the highly trained diplomats who have been working on this issue for decades.
This kind of highly personalised, ad-hoc diplomacy may be exciting and play well for a domestic audience keen to see their leader as someone to be reckoned with. But it is inevitably destabilising and counter-productive to actually solving critical issues, such as the North Korean nuclear crisis.
Significantly, this is the first time we are dealing with unpredictable characters on both sides of the North Korean nuclear dispute.
Previously, North Korea would have been viewed as the most risky party in such a crisis. But right now its behaviour is entirely predictable, particularly in the face of confusion and a deliberate escalation of the US response – which Trump is leading.
There are more moderate forces within the US government, but their actions are being repeatedly drowned out by an unpredictable president who appears to have no appreciation of the damage and threat his statements are causing.
Strongman or madman?
The issue with Trump’s ad-hoc response and commentary on North Korea is the inconsistent messages this sends to an already paranoid and isolated regime.
North Korea is led by a power-driven despot who will not hesitate to put his own needs and political survival well above the needs of his people. Kim is already paranoid about US actions. And the increasingly disjointed nature of Trump’s dealings with North Korea serves to strengthen the regime’s claim that the US is actively seeking to destroy it.
Prior to the Trump administration the US had taken a relatively consistent approach to North Korea through the Clinton, Bush and Obama years. Essentially, the US has previously always been careful to provide an exit strategy for North Korea.
By contrast, there are several critical errors with Trump’s approach. It is imperative to allow leaders like Kim the space and flexibility to back down with some semblance of dignity. Irrespective of his character, political collapse in North Korea would be dangerous for the world – and disastrous for the region.
Trump needs to tread carefully and allow space for negotiators and diplomats to do their job. The inconsistency in message that is apparent through his tweets and off-the-cuff comments compromises the actions and statements of US diplomats working on this issue.
This undermines any progress that may be being made, and pushes North Korea further toward a critical nuclear tipping point.
US Secretary of Defence James Mattis has previously warned of an “overwhelming” response to nuclear provocation by North Korea, but said a military solution in North Korea would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale”.
As a direct result of Trump’s actions, what could have been a week of triumph as the international community came together to enact harsh sanctions on North Korea has instead perhaps drawn us one step closer to the tragedy Mattis predicted.
Pauline Hanson is set to move that the High Court consider the eligibility of One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts. There is a question mark over whether Roberts was a dual British citizen when he nominated for parliament.
Hanson’s announcement came after it was obvious a Greens move for a referral would be successful. This followed BuzzFeed News on Tuesday posting online Roberts’ signed application for Australian citizenship, in which he declared he was a British citizen at age 19 in 1974.
Whether Roberts was a dual national has been a long-running issue, with Roberts changing his story, from saying he was never a British citizen to most recently claiming he had renounced his British citizenship but refusing to make public the documentation. Under Section 44 of the Constitution a dual citizen is ineligible to stand for federal parliament.
Hanson and Roberts appeared at an often heated joint news conference, at which she declared he had been “eligible to stand at the time of nomination”.
In a statement, Hanson said that One Nation would be supporting Roberts “in his plan to refer himself to the High Court”. Later the statement was revised to say Hanson would move the referral.
She said it had always been Roberts’ “intention to submit his citizenship documents for public scrutiny”.
“In light of the major parties’ decision not to hold a full inquiry into the citizenships of senators, it was deemed that the High Court would provide senator Roberts the best opportunity to prove he has complied with the Australian Constitution and is lawfully elected,” she said.
“Senator Roberts has my full backing and total support from his fellow One Nation senators.”
Hanson told reporters Roberts’ case was “not straightforward” but “very complex”. “You don’t understand the full situation.”
Asked about what he had said on his application form, Roberts said: “I was a citizen of the UK and colonies … We all know that back then we were very strong members of the Commonwealth, we still are, we sang God Save The Queen until not long before then, I always thought that I was Australian, always thought I was Australian.”
The referral will have general agreement in the Senate. Earlier the government had resisted action against Roberts, with its Senate leader, George Brandis, saying on Tuesday that: “A person lodges an apparently regular nomination for an election, and they are declared to have been elected, then the onus of proof … lies on those who seek to prove that they weren’t validly elected to demonstrate that that is the case”.
The referral of Roberts is the latest in a dramatic series of events that has thrown the Senate’s membership into turmoil and given the High Court an extraordinary number of cases to deal with.
Apart from Roberts’ future, these include ruling on the filling of the places of two Greens senators, Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam, who resigned because they discovered they were dual nationals, and considering the eligibility of the Nationals’ Matt Canavan, whose mother signed him up as an Italian citizen.
The Senate is also awaiting the arrival of the replacement for former Western Australian Liberal senator Chris Back, who recently retired. As well, Special Minister of State Scott Ryan is on extended medical leave.
But arrangements between the parties are in place to ensure the various court cases and gaps do not affect the voting numbers.