Julie Bishop goes to backbench, Marise Payne becomes new foreign minister


File 20180826 149487 1avqe0.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
After five years as foreign minister, Julie Bishop will move to the backbench.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Julie Bishop has chosen to go to the backbench, to be succeeded by Marise Payne as foreign minister, and the energy and environment portfolio has been split, in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ministry announced Sunday.

Dan Tehan replaces Simon Birmingham in education, in a gesture to the Catholic education sector ahead of a special deal to meet its trenchant criticisms of the government’s schools policy.

Bishop, 62, who won only a handful of votes in the leadership ballot after the “stop Dutton” forces rallied behind Morrison, said in a statement she had told Morrison “I will be resigning from my cabinet position as Minister for Foreign Affairs.” She said she had made no decision about whether she would contest the election.

Unveiling an extensive reshuffle, Morrison described his ministry as a “next generation team”. He has rewarded his supporters but also accommodated some Peter Dutton loyalists.

Energy goes to former businessman the conservative Angus Taylor, previously minister for law enforcement and cyber security, who moves into cabinet. Morrison dubbed Taylor as minister for “getting electricity prices down”.

Environment is taken by Melissa Price, previously assistant minister for the environment. The portfolio remains in cabinet.

Asked where the carve up left emissions, Morrison made clear where his priorities lay, saying the challenge in energy was reliability and dispatchable power.

Peter Dutton, the man who launched the leadership coup though failed to win the prime ministership, returns to his portfolio of home affairs. But immigration has been sliced off, going to David Coleman, previously assistant minister for finance, who becomes minister for immigration, citizenship and multicultural affairs.

This flags Morrison’s interest in the economic side of immigration. “Immigration forms part of national security policy but it also has always played an important role in economic and social policy,” he said.

Christopher Pyne becomes defence minister, achieving his long-time wish to be the senior minister in the area; his old job of defence industry goes to Steve Ciobo, who was previously in trade. Birmingham takes his place in trade.

The Morrison cabinet has six women, one extra compared with the Turnbull cabinet. They are Bridget McKenzie (Nat), Payne, Kelly O’Dwyer, Michaelia Cash, Karen Andrews, and Melissa Price.

O’Dwyer moves from revenue to jobs and industrial relations; she keeps responsibility for women. Industrial relations is back in cabinet. Michaelia Cash has gone into small and family business, skills and vocations.

Alan Tudge becomes minister for cities, urban infrastructure and population. Morrison said Tudge would be “the minister for congestion-busting”. Population has become an increasing pressure point.

Mathias Cormann remains in finance and as Senate leader, but his special minister of state job goes to Alex Hawke.

Paul Fletcher will be social services minister and moves into cabinet.

Sussan Ley and Stuart Robert, who both had to leave the ministry over controversies, are back on the frontbench. Robert is assistant treasurer; Ley is assistant minister for regional development and territories.

Michael Sukkar, previously assistant minister to the treasurer and outspoken conservative, has been dumped to the backbench.

Barnaby Joyce, still on the backbench, has been made “special envoy for drought assistance and recovery”.

Tony Abbott has not been given a job, although Morrison signalled he was open to giving him some Joyce-type role if he wanted.

Two Liberals apart from Julie Bishop, and a National, indicated they did not want to be considered for frontbench roles. The Liberals were Craig Laundy and John McVeigh, while the National was Keith Pitt, who had been assistant to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Pitt said in a statement: “I will always put the national interest and the interests of my constituents above my own. I will always put reducing power prices, before Paris.”

Morrison acknowledged at the weekend that ordinary people had been “absolutely disgusted” by the events of last week.

The exit of Bishop, who had developed a high and well-respected international profile, will send a further confusing message to other countries, which have witnessed Australia’s revolving door of the prime ministership.

Bishop, who entered parliament in 1998, has been foreign minister since 2013 and deputy to every Liberal leader since 2007.

In the aftermath of the coup, the bitterness continued to flow as the machinations were revealed.

A WhatsApp chain of messages was leaked to the ABC, in which tactics to stop Dutton ultimately winning, were revealed.

Fletcher, close to Turnbull, said in the chain: “Cormann rumoured to be putting some WA votes behind Julie Bishop in round 1. Be aware that this is a ruse trying to get her ahead of Morrison so he drops out & his votes go to Dutton. Despite our hearts tugging us to Julie we need to vote with our heads for Scott in round one.”

Cormann describes the Fletcher claim as “100% incorrect”.

Birmingham, a strong Turnbull supporter, told the ABC that a “handful of individuals” had wreaked havoc.

“We had Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership confirmed and re-endorsed just last Tuesday with a clear majority, and yet those who wanted to wreak havoc continued to do so during the week. Now, that was terribly destructive and every single man and woman in the Liberal Party room needs to put that type of behaviour behind us and make sure that we do unify for the future.”

On Monday, Morrison, who has put the drought at the top of his priority list, will make a quick trip to a drought-afflicted part of Queensland. At the weekend he met Major General Stephen Day, who is coordinating drought relief and support

Drought was “the thing that I think Australians very much want the attention of their prime minister on and right now”, Morrison told the popular regional program Australia All Over. Morrison reeled off some “encouraging” weekend rainfall numbers while noting this was “nowhere near what’s obviously needed.”

Over the weekend, the new prime minister spoke with US President Donald Trump (inviting him to visit Australia), Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

<!– Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. –>
The Conversation

Later this week Morrison will visit Indonesia, but he will not undertake the visits to multiple regional countries that Turnbull had slotted in. Australia and Indonesia have been negotiating a free trade deal, which could be signed during the visit.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Advertisements

With a new prime minister nominated, the Nationals have a rare chance to assert themselves



File 20180824 149490 17855nn.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
It is often forgotten that the Liberals cannot govern without the support of the Nationals, and this has been the case for almost 100 years.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Gregory Melleuish, University of Wollongong

So, Scott Morrison, MP for The Shire, has won the leadership of the Liberal Party. One must wonder what role external factors played in his victory, including the vague threat by some National Party members that they would sit on the crossbenches had Dutton been victorious.

With all the focus on the various ructions in the Liberal Party, it is too often forgotten that the current government is a coalition of the Liberal Party and the National Party. The Liberals cannot govern without the support of the Nationals. This has been the case for almost 100 years, with the first coalition government being that of the Nationalists led by Stanley Bruce and the Country Party led by Earle Page.

The Liberals have rarely had enough seats in the House of Representatives to rule in their own right when in government and so have always governed together with their Country/National Party colleagues. This has always given the National Party considerable leverage with regard to the Coalition. This has included the capacity to veto possible Liberal Prime Ministers, as happened in 1968, when then leader John McEwen said he would not countenance Bill McMahon as Prime Minister.




Read more:
How the hard right terminated Turnbull, only to see Scott Morrison become PM


It has also enabled the National Party to influence which ministerial portfolios will be allocated to them. In earlier times, the National Party leader was Treasurer in a Coalition government. McEwen changed this when he held the important portfolio of Trade and Industry from 1956 to 1971.

The National Party has declined in importance over the past 50 years, as the proportion of the population living in rural areas has declined, not least because of the mechanisation of Australian agriculture. Over the past 20 years, their representation in the House of Representatives has been in the range of ten to 16 seats. Over that same period, the Liberal Party has had a minimum of 50 seats and a maximum of 74.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that after the 2016 election, the National Party has been in its strongest position in terms of the Liberals for some time. Whereas after the 2013 election, it held 15 seats to the Liberals’ 74, after 2016 it held 16 seats to the Liberals’ 60.

As the government holds office by the barest of majorities, this places the Nationals in a position of strength regarding the formation of a new Coalition government. While there has been no indication the leadership of the Nationals wishes to act as a King (or Queen) maker, there have been rumblings from other members of the party.

Prior to the leadership vote, it was reported that National MPs Darren Chester, Kevin Hogan and Damian Drum could go to the crossbench if Peter Dutton were elected leader. Both Drum and Chester are from Victoria, while Hogan holds the marginal seat of Page in northern New South Wales, which includes the hippy capital of Australia, Nimbin.

We will never know know how serious these reports were. They may have been no more than an updated attempt by the Nationals, unofficially, to get the Liberal leader of their choice. It may also reflect the fact rural Victoria is more “liberal” than outback New South Wales and Queensland.

Certainly, their defection would have created a minority government, but one wonders how it would affect their preselection. Maybe they think they could win their seats as independents.

The key point is the current situation places the National Party in a position of strength with regard to their Liberal colleagues. Having undergone “trial by Barnaby” they can now move on and make the most of the situation.

Assuming the government runs for another eight months, they have an opportunity to pursue policies that will benefit their rural constituencies, thereby aiding their chances of re-election in 2019. With the progressive Turnbull, whose interests more or less aligned with those of urban Australia, out of the way, they could well have a window of opportunity to place more focus on rural Australia.




Read more:
The Turnbull government is all but finished, and the Liberals will now need to work out who they are


One thing which will be of particular interest will be the portfolios which the Nationals will seek. Could they possibly want energy, given the importance of the cost of power?

It’s certainly the case that the events of the past few days have weakened the authority of the Liberal Party in terms of its capacity to provide good government for the country. They’re now seen as behaving like a group of fractious and difficult school children.

<!– Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. –>
The Conversation

Under these circumstances, it seems to me, the National Party is presented with an opportunity to use its role within the Coalition to exercise its influence on behalf of rural Australia. It remains to be seen the extent to which it will make the most of this opportunity.

Gregory Melleuish, Professor, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Scott Morrison is the new Prime Minister after Peter Dutton’s giant miscalculation


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison is Australia’s new prime minister, beating Peter Dutton by 45-40 votes after a week in which the government imploded and the Liberal party tore itself apart.

The third contender, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, was eliminated in the first round, reportedly receiving only a handful of votes.

The new deputy is the Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, 47, from Victoria, who won overwhelmingly, from fellow Victorian Greg Hunt and Queenslander Steve Ciobo.

At a news conference after the ballot Turnbull lashed out at the “determined insurgency from a number of people both in the party room and backed by voices, powerful voices, in the media” that brought him down.

“Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott and others, who chose to deliberately attack the government from within – they did so because they wanted to bring the government down, they wanted to bring my prime ministership down.”

Turnbull confirmed he will leave parliament “before too long”, which would prompt a byelection.

The motion for a spill of the leadership was carried 45-40, an unexpectedly close margin and an indication that Malcolm Turnbull retained substantial support even amid the chaos. Turnbull, prime minister since he deposed Tony Abbott in 2015, had promised not to contest the subsequent ballot if the spill was carried.

This was the second vote on the leadership this week – Turnbull beat Dutton 38-45 on Tuesday.

The meeting was delayed by some 20 minutes after Turnbull insisted on seeing the petition for the special meeting, and then having the government whip verify the signatures. Turnbull’s delaying tactics helped Morrison gather the numbers.

The result is a massive rebuff for Peter Dutton and his conservative backers who have consistently undermined Turnbull’s leadership.

As he left the meeting, Dutton pledged his “absolute loyalty” to Morrison.

Abbott, who backed Dutton and believes Morrison betrayed him in the 2015 leadership coup, declared: “We have lost the Prime Minister, there is a government to save.”

Morrison, 50, from NSW, has been Treasurer since 2015, and in parliament since 2007. He is a former state director of the Liberal party in NSW. He is socially conservative but is regarded as pragmatic in ideological terms. As immigration minister in the Abbott government he oversaw stopping the boats.

The vote is seen as meaning the government can be expected to continue current economic policies. Business will be relieved; Morrison is a familiar figure in business circles and would have been regarded by far the most preferred of the three candidates.

Dutton’s floating of ideas like taking the GST off electricity bills may have counted against him, on the grounds of economic irresponsibility.

Also a somewhat equivocal opinion from the Solicitor-General about Dutton’s eligibility to sit in parliament may have been unhelpful. This was released shortly before the vote.

Morrison has ahead of him the immense challenge of uniting a fractured party. A lot will depend on whether the conservatives undermine him or accept their rout quietly.

The conservatives were furious at Turnbull’s hardball delaying tactics and his emphasis on getting the opinion about Dutton’s constitutional eligibility.

Given the closeness of the numbers, scrutiny came on Mathias Cormann, Mitch Fifield and Michaelia Cash whose dramatic resignations from the ministry, declaring Turnbull had lost party support, were the killer blow for him.

Arthur Sinodinos, close to Turnbull, who is on long term sick leave, came to Canberra for the vote.

While the Longman byelection was one of the spurs for the challenge, Queensland remains unrepresented in the leadership team.

In his farewell news conference Turnbull went through the achievements of his “progressive government”.

“I have been a reforming Liberal Prime Minister,” he said, citing the delivery of marriage equality.

Asked about his concessions to the conservatives, he said: “What I have done always is to try to keep the party together. And that has meant that from time to time I have had to compromise and make concessions.

“It’s something I learnt from my first time as leader that you have to work so hard to keep the show together. There are – and that’s the bottom line.”

He said “the truth is that the coalition finds it very hard to get agreement on anything to do with emissions”, he said. He said the National Energy Guarantee “was or is a vital piece of economic reform. It remains the government’s policy, of course”.

Senator Eric Abetz, from the Dutton camp, said: “Today must mark a clean start for the parliamentary Liberal party and having worked with Mr Morrison well over a number of years, I am certain that he will lead a more consultative parliamentary party, be more responsive to issues raised with him and actively seek to bring back together our broad church”.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten tweeted: “Liberals: more division, more chaos, more cuts. Labor: stable, united, 100% focused on delivering for you and your family.”

UPDATE

In his news conference, Morrison declared himself and Frydenberg as “the new generation of Liberal leadership”.
Frydenberg will become Treasurer in the Morrison government.

Morrison flagged that Dutton would be in his cabinet, and that he was not looking to have an early election.

His first priority was to review drought policy, he said.

On energy policy Morrison reaffirmed the government’s announced plans to crack down on power companies’ behaviour, but left vague how the rest of the policy might be changed, saying he would consult with his cabinet.

In terms of other priorities, he said that in healthcare “I am distressed by the challenge of chronic illness in this country”.

In comments on values, Morrison said: “If you have a go in this country, you will get a go. There is a fair go for those who have a go. That is what fairness in Australia means.”

<!– Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. –>
The Conversation

“We believe that the best form of welfare is a job. That is what releases people out of poverty. That is what releases people out of hardship. The dignity of work, the ability to go and have choices as a result of the efforts you make regardless of your level of ability.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The royal commission should result not only in new regulation, but new education


Dirk Baur, University of Western Australia; Elizabeth Ooi, University of Western Australia, and Paul Gerrans, University of Western Australia

The Financial Services Royal Commission has not only shown that banks and their representatives have behaved appallingly, but that we need better-educated consumers.

It is naive not to expect new schemes will pop up to replace the now (or soon to be) banned practices. There is a clear pattern of repeating unconscionable behaviour in the financial services industry.

Consumers need to be trained to ask the right questions. “How much do I have to pay each week over the life of the loan including (hidden) fees?”, “How much do I have to pay in fees each year?”, and “Why is this right for me rather than right for the bank?”

Being able to answer such questions can help reduce the invariably expensive and imperfect regulation that generally follows inquiries such as the royal commission.




Read more:
Royal commission scandals are the result of poor financial regulation, not literacy


A 20-year-old, let’s call him Mark, just started his first job paying A$45,000 a year. Confidently, he walks into a bank branch, applies and is approved for a A$30,000 car loan within 20 minutes. He wants a new car and isn’t too concerned about the 12.5% annual interest.

Mark states afterwards he didn’t know he could hardly afford the loan. It cost more than A$40,000 over five years. And with other commitments he was in over his head, leaving no room for changes in work, illness, etc.

Should Mark be expected to know? Was he taught any of this? Could he know if he had made some effort, or should the bank have informed him better and been more explicit?

And where does the responsibility sit?

We assumed in the story (loosely related to one heard by the royal commission) that the bank had informed Mark about rates and fees, but had not effectively communicated what this meant in terms of weekly payments or total cost.

For the moment, let’s put aside the primary role of the banks and their representatives – it is their practices on the line and we are not blaming or judging the victims. Neither do we know the client’s individual circumstances.

But, caveats established, how much information must be presented and what can be reasonably expected in terms of the financial literacy level of customers? If the response from the royal commission is increased disclosure, these are the relevant questions.

But this still leaves whether we can be confident that education is being provided so customers can make informed decisions.




Read more:
There are serious problems with the concept of ‘financial literacy’


Financial literacy is in the National Curriculum and being taught to primary and secondary students. But, given Mark’s age, there is no guarantee he would have received financial literacy education at school.

For the future Marks, financial literacy is now embedded, but coverage remains uneven as what is taught varies by state and school level.

Elsewhere policy is continuing the trend of transferring financial responsibilities from government to individuals, which requires greater financial literacy. For example, the NDIS aims to build a new disability marketplace, requiring important financial decisions from individuals or their representatives.

But the royal commission has clearly shown people suffered by following bad advice or by not questioning numbers sufficiently.

How were 24% p.a. car loans supported by banks and accepted by customers? Were the numbers too abstract and customers didn’t know what 24% a year meant in dollar terms?

Not just new regulation but new education

Better-educated people are better equipped to ask the right questions and make more informed decisions.

We can’t just rely on regulated disclosure – we need to continue to ensure the “simple” questions about the total costs over the life of the loan and whether it’s right for the customer, rather than just the bank, are taught. Teaching consumers to ask these questions, to question the information provided, is important and can enhance the regulation.

Who should provide this education? Not those with a conflict of interest such as financial institutions. If the royal commission tells us one thing it is that incentives matter.

If you are incentivised, or part of an incentivised brand, it may be better you don’t have a role in education. The Dollarmites scandal may not be the biggest scandal this year but it’s emblematic and part of a problem.

Schools, VET and universities can do better and more.

A new round of regulation will create new incentives to avoid it. Regulation tries to catch up and focuses on institutions – here the banks. But new financial technologies mean financial providers don’t look like they used to – for example, new app-based peer-to-peer lenders at your favourite store.

We can’t rely on education alone but we also can’t rely on regulation alone.

<!– Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. –>
The Conversation

Let’s recognise the limitations of regulation as we try to improve outcomes and consider whether some of the money spent on designing and enforcing new regulations may be better spent further educating our future customers.

Dirk Baur, Professor of Finance, University of Western Australia; Elizabeth Ooi, Lecturer, Finance, University of Western Australia, and Paul Gerrans, Professor of Finance, University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The devil is in the detail of government bill to enable access to communications data


Monique Mann, Queensland University of Technology

The Australian government has released a draft of its long awaited bill to provide law enforcement and security agencies with new powers to respond to the challenges posed by encryption.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, encryption already impacts 90% of Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s (ASIO) priority cases, and 90% of data intercepted by the Australian Federal Police. The measures aim to counteract estimates that communications among terrorists and organised crime groups are expected to be entirely encrypted by 2020.

The Department of Home Affairs and ASIO can already access encrypted data with specialist decryption techniques – or at points where data are not encrypted. But this takes time. The new bill aims to speed up this process, but these broad and ill-defined new powers have significant scope for abuse.




Read more:
New data access bill shows we need to get serious about privacy with independent oversight of the law


The Department of Home Affairs argues this new framework will not compel communications providers to build systemic weaknesses or vulnerabilities into their systems. In other words, it is not a backdoor.

But it will require providers to offer up details about technical characteristics of their systems that could help agencies exploit weaknesses that have not been patched. It also includes installing software, and designing and building new systems.

Compelling assistance and access

The draft Assistance and Access Bill introduces three main reforms.

First, it increases the obligations of both domestic and offshore organisations to assist law enforcement and security agencies to access information. Second, it introduces new computer access warrants that enable law enforcement to covertly obtain evidence directly from a device (this occurs at the endpoints when information is not encrypted). Finally, it increases existing powers that law enforcement have to access data through search and seizure warrants.

The bill is modelled on the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, which introduced mandatory decryption obligations. Under the UK Act, the UK government can order telecommunication providers to remove any form of electronic protection that is applied by, or on behalf of, an operator. Whether or not this is technically possible is another question.

Similar to the UK laws, the Australian bill puts the onus on telecommunication providers to give security agencies access to communications. That might mean providing access to information at points where it is not encrypted, but it’s not immediately clear what other requirements can or will be imposed.




Read more:
End-to-end encryption isn’t enough security for ‘real people’


For example, the bill allows the Director-General of Security or the chief officer of an interception agency to compel a provider to do an unlimited range of acts or things. That could mean anything from removing security measures to deleting messages or collecting extra data. Providers will also be required to conceal any action taken covertly by law enforcement.

Further, the Attorney-General may issue a “technical capability notice” directed towards ensuring that the provider is capable of giving certain types of help to ASIO or an interception agency.

This means providers will be required to develop new ways for law enforcement to collect information. As in the UK, it’s not clear whether a provider will be able to offer true end-to-end encryption and still be able to comply with the notices. Providers that breach the law risk facing $10 million fines.

Cause for concern

The bill puts few limits or constraints on the assistance that telecommunication providers may be ordered to offer. There are also concerns about transparency. The bill would make it an offence to disclose information about government agency activities without authorisation. Anyone leaking information about data collection by the government – as Edward Snowden did in the US – could go to jail for five years.

There are limited oversight and accountability structures and processes in place. The Director-General of Security, the chief officer of an interception agency and the Attorney-General can issue notices without judicial oversight. This differs from how it works in the UK, where a specific judicial oversight regime was established, in addition to the introduction of an Investigatory Powers Commissioner.

Notices can be issued to enforce domestic laws and assist the enforcement of the criminal laws of foreign countries. They can also be issued in the broader interests of national security, or to protect the public revenue. These are vague and unclear limits on these exceptional powers.




Read more:
Police want to read encrypted messages, but they already have significant power to access our data


The range of services providers is also extremely broad. It might include telecommunication companies, internet service providers, email providers, social media platforms and a range of other “over-the-top” services. It also covers those who develop, supply or update software, and manufacture, supply, install or maintain data processing devices.

The enforcement of criminal laws in other countries may mean international requests for data will be funnelled through Australia as the “weakest-link” of our Five Eyes allies. This is because Australia has no enforceable human rights protections at the federal level.

It’s not clear how the government would enforce these laws on transnational technology companies. For example, if Facebook was issued a fine under the laws, it could simply withdraw operations or refuse to pay. Also, $10 million is a drop in the ocean for companies such as Facebook whose total revenue last year exceeded US$40 billion.

Australia is a surveillance state

As I have argued elsewhere, the broad powers outlined in the bill are neither necessary nor proportionate. Police already have existing broad powers, which are further strengthened by this bill, such as their ability to covertly hack devices at the endpoints when information is not encrypted.

Australia has limited human rights and privacy protections. This has enabled a constant and steady expansion of the powers and capabilities of the surveillance state. If we want to protect the privacy of our communications we must demand it.

The ConversationThe Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 (Cth) is still in a draft stage and the Department of Home Affairs invites public comment up until 10th of September 2018. Submit any comments to assistancebill.consultation@homeaffairs.gov.au.

Monique Mann, Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow in Regulation of Technology, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

New data access bill shows we need to get serious about privacy with independent oversight of the law



File 20180814 2921 15oljsx.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

MICK TSIKAS/AAP

Greg Austin, UNSW

The federal government today announced its proposed legislation to give law enforcement agencies yet more avenues to reach into our private lives through access to our personal communications and data. This never-ending story of parliamentary bills defies logic, and is not offering the necessary oversight and protections.

The trend has been led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, with help from an ever-growing number of security ministers and senior officials. Could it be that the proliferation of government security roles is a self-perpetuating industry leading to ever more government powers for privacy encroachment?

That definitely appears to be the case.

Striking the right balance between data access and privacy is a tricky problem, but the government’s current approach is doing little to solve it. We need better oversight of law enforcement access to our data to ensure it complies with privacy principles and actually results in convictions. That might require setting up an independent judicial review mechanism to report outcomes on an annual basis.




Read more:
Australia should strengthen its privacy laws and remove exemptions for politicians


Where is the accountability?

The succession of data access legislation in the Australian parliament is fast becoming a Mad Hatter’s tea party – a characterisation justified by the increasingly unproductive public conversations between the government on one hand, and legal specialists and rights advocates on the other.

If the government says it needs new laws to tackle “terrorism and paedophilia”, then the rule seems to be that other side will be criticised for bringing up “privacy protection”. The federal opposition has surrendered any meaningful resistance to this parade of legislation.

Rights advocates have been backed into a corner by being forced to repeat their concerns over each new piece of legislation while neither they nor the government, nor our Privacy Commissioner, and all the other “commissioners”, are called to account on fundamental matters of principle.

Speaking of the commissioner class, Australia just got a new one last week: the Data Commissioner. Strangely, the impetus for this appointment came from the Productivity Commission.

The post has three purposes:

  1. to promote greater use of data,
  2. to drive economic benefits and innovation from greater use of data, and
  3. to build trust with the Australian community about the government’s use of data.

The problem with this logic is that purposes one and two can only be distinguished by the seemingly catch-all character of the first: that if data exists it must be used.

Leaving aside that minor point, the notion that the government needs to build trust with the Australian community on data policy speaks for itself.

National Privacy Principles fall short

There is near universal agreement that the government is managing this issue badly, from the census data management issue to the “My Health Record” debacle. The growing commissioner class has not been much help.

Australia does have personal data protection principles, you may be surprised to learn. They are called “Privacy Principles”. You may be even more surprised to learn that the rights offered in these principles exist only up to the point where any enforcement arm of government wants the data.




Read more:
94% of Australians do not read all privacy policies that apply to them – and that’s rational behaviour


So it seems that Australians have to rely on the leadership of the Productivity Commission (for economic policy) to guarantee our rights in cyber space, at least when it comes to our personal data.

Better oversight is required

There is another approach to reconciling citizens’ interests in privacy protection with legitimate and important enforcement needs against terrorists and paedophiles: that is judicial review.

The government argues, unconvincingly according to police sources, that this process adequately protects citizens by requiring law enforcement to obtain court-ordered warrants to access information. The record in some other countries suggests otherwise, with judges almost always waving through any application from enforcement authorities, according to official US data.

There is a second level of judicial review open to the government. This is to set up an independent judicial review mechanism that is obliged to annually review all instances of government access to personal data under warrant, and to report on the virtues or shortcomings of that access against enforcement outcomes and privacy principles.

There are two essential features of this proposal. First, the reviewing officer is a judge and not a public servant (the “commissioner class”). Second, the scope of the function is review of the daily operation of the intrusive laws, not just the post-facto examination of notorious cases of data breaches.

It would take a lengthy academic volume to make the case for judicial review of this kind. But it can be defended simply on economic grounds: such a review process would shine light on the efficiency of police investigations.

According to data released by the UK government, the overwhelming share of arrests for terrorist offences in the UK (many based on court-approved warrants for access to private data) do not result in convictions. There were 37 convictions out of 441 arrests for terrorist-related offences in the 12 months up to March 2018.




Read more:
Explainer: what is differential privacy and how can it protect your data?


The Turnbull government deserves credit for its recognition of the values of legal review. Its continuing commitment to posts such as the National Security Legislation Monitor – and the appointment of a high-profile barrister to such a post – is evidence of that.

But somewhere along the way, the administration of data privacy is falling foul of a growing bureaucratic mess.

The ConversationThe only way to bring order to the chaos is through robust accountability; and the only people with the authority or legitimacy in our political system to do that are probably judges who are independent of the government.

Greg Austin, Professor UNSW Canberra Cyber, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Fractured Liberals need a new brand – ‘broad church’ is no longer working


Gregory Melleuish, University of Wollongong

Political parties wishing to win majority support in the pursuit of gaining control of government cannot afford to be tied too closely to a rigid ideology or set of views. They must accommodate a range of viewpoints and approaches to matters of public policy, even as they decide which policy to pursue.

In the case of the Liberal Party, former Prime Minister John Howard summed up this reality of political life with his description of the party as a “broad church” that married the conservative tradition exemplified by the Irish writer Edmund Burke with the liberalism of John Stuart Mill.

This formulation was vague enough to encompass a range of political positions, even if they were at odds with one another. The “broad church” ideal had a simple goal – ensure that all Liberals were inside the tent and shared a common outlook.

The left-right divide

In earlier days, the Liberal Party could define itself in terms of being “anti-Labor”. Labor sought an Australia based on national planning, abolishing the federal system and nationalising institutions such as the banks. The Liberals summed this up in one word: socialism.

The ALP increasingly adopted liberal principles, not just in economic terms as exemplified by the Hawke/Keating reforms, but also in social matters. The party also dropped its traditional social conservatism; its last exponent was 1960s leader Arthur Calwell.




Read more:
Can the Liberal Party hold its ‘broad church’ of liberals and conservatives together?


As the ALP “modernised” and jettisoned much of its earlier ideological baggage, the Liberal Party needed to find what is described these days as a new “brand”, and Howard’s “broad church” was a response to these changing circumstances.

In many ways, the “broad church” formulation of the Liberal brand is much weaker than “anti-socialism”. This may reflect the fact that the old left vs. right division, with its clear-cut understanding of politics in material terms, has largely ceased to be relevant.

In these circumstances, the possibility of conflict within the Liberal Party based on both values and interests becomes greater. For example, the issue of the National Energy Guarantee cannot be conceptualised in traditional left/right terms.

The same is true of climate change in general. One of the biggest international critics of anthropogenic global warming is Piers Corbyn, the brother of UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who considers “climate change” an attack by globalists on the working class.

The advocates of coal-fired power stations in the Coalition would seem to have more in common with Piers Corbyn and the values of Calwell’s Labor Party than with contemporary progressive liberalism. And from an old-style Labor perspective,
the focus in that party would be on prioritising cheap energy for the ordinary working person.




Read more:
Christianity does not play a significant role in Australian politics, but cultural conservatism does


What this suggests is that divisions about contemporary political issues are becoming increasingly difficult to comprehend with the ideological tools handed down to us from the past, and to do so is to paint a false picture. Of course, there are intellectual differences between those advocating for the increased use of renewable energy sources and those who wish to build new coal-fired power stations. There are also other interests involved of a more material kind.

Another issue currently being debated in parliament – whether to allow the territory governments to legalise euthanasia – is again not so much a left/right issue as a liberal/conservative one. I think it would be true to say that such a bill would have horrified the Labor party of the 1950s, especially given the significant number of Catholics in its ranks.

The Coalition is now the home of social conservatism in the Australian parliament. Given the success of the same-sex referendum last year, one can only wonder if the tide is flowing against them also on euthanasia.

Evolving for the modern political age

It may be possible to conclude that the Liberal reformulation of its brand in terms of the “broad church” model is limited by the way in which Australian politics in the 21st century has been evolving. The reason: the “broad church” model paints politics in what are largely 19th century terms.

The ALP has claimed at least some of the heritage of John Stuart Mill as expressed in contemporary liberal progressivism. The party has left the conservative working class behind. In so doing, they seem to have created a much stronger brand.




Read more:
Australian liberalism old and new


The Liberals, on the other hand, have perhaps created a rod for their own backs. They have a liberal progressive wing, exemplified by Malcolm Turnbull, and a conservative wing, exemplified by Tony Abbott. On matters where the ALP are unified, the Liberals are divided.

One reason for this division is the heterogeneity of the current Liberal Party and its support base. It can longer define itself as being “anti-socialist”. The “broad church” brand was an attempt to turn that heterogeneity into unity, but it may have only papered over the cracks. This reflects the ideological muddle of 21st century politics.

Modern-day Australia imposes certain realities on political parties. The most important one is that the important public policy issues of the day go beyond old-fashioned left/right characterisations.

The ConversationPolitical parties need to be nimble and agile if they are to escape from the labels of a past age. Otherwise, they will continue to repeat the errors of recent years.

Gregory Melleuish, Professor, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Turnbull’s chief of staff to be new Public Service Commissioner


File 20180730 106502 18pq91h.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The public service union has welcomed the new Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott as “a much needed change” from his controversial predecessor.
Control Arms/flickr

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull has appointed his chief of staff, Peter Woolcott, as the new Public Service Commissioner, following the resignation of the controversial John Lloyd from the position.

Woolcott is a public servant with a career in diplomacy. While in the Turnbull office he has been on leave from his position as a deputy secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Lloyd quit amid questions about his sharing information with the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), for which he formerly worked. Labor accused him of being partisan, which he denied.

Earlier this month, the government appointed Phil Gaetjens, former chief of staff to Treasurer Scott Morrison, as the new head of Treasury. Labor has flagged it may sack him if it wins office, accusing Morrison of politicising Treasury during his time as treasurer. Woolcott’s appointment is not likely to be controversial.




Read more:
View from The Hill: New Treasury secretary rolls the dice on his future


Woolcott served as High Commissioner to New Zealand in 2016-17, and before that was Ambassador for the Environment in 2014-16.

Previous positions included Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva and Ambassador for Disarmament; Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues, and Ambassador to Italy. He was chief of staff to then foreign minister Alexander Downer in 2002-2004.

Diplomacy runs in the family – Woolcott is the son of a former distinguished Australian diplomat, Richard Woolcott, who headed the Foreign Affairs department.

Turnbull said the government had commissioned an independent review of the public service. Woolcott was well qualified to “help ensure the APS is fit for purpose,” Turnbull said.

“He will work closely with David Thodey on the review and with the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Dr Martin Parkinson to help drive reform.”

Clive Mathieson, a former editor of The Australian who has been deputy to Woolcott in the Turnbull office, will become the Prime Minister’s new chief of staff.

The Community and Public Sector Union welcomed the Woolcott appointment, saying it “offers a much needed break from the damaging ideological agenda of John Lloyd”.

The ConversationCPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “It’s unusual to have a career diplomat appointed as Public Service Commissioner, but Peter Woolcott is a welcome and plainly also a much needed change given his long history of working in the Australian public service.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

A new levy on digital giants like Google, Facebook and eBay is a step towards a fairer way of taxing


Antony Ting, University of Sydney

The government is reportedly considering a new tax on the digital economy. While no details of the tax are available yet, the digital services tax recently proposed by the European Commission may give us an idea what the tax might look like.

In essence, the proposal will impose a 3% tax on the turnover of large digital economy companies in the European Union. Similar ideas have been suggested in the UK and France.

The current international tax system was designed before internet was invented, so this new tax is a response to this problem. Under the current system, a foreign company will not be subject to income tax in Australia unless it has a significant physical presence in the country. The key word here is “physical”.

It is well known that modern multinationals such as Google can derive substantial revenue and profits from Australia without significant physical presence here. It is no surprise that this 20th-century tax principle struggles to deal with the 21st-century economy.

This problem is well known but the solution is far more elusive.

Attempts to tax digital companies

The best solution in response to the rise of the digital economy is to reword the laws to take more into account than the “physical” presence of a company in the international tax regime. However, this reform would require international consensus on a new set of rules to allocate the taxing rights on the profits of multinationals among different countries.

In particular, it would mean more taxing rights for source countries where the revenue is generated. The formidable political resistance is not difficult to imagine.

The OECD has attempted to address this fundamental issue, but in vain so far. Its report on the taxation of digital economy in the Base Erosion Profit Shifting project did not provide any recommendation to improve the system at all. The recent report on its continuing work on the digital economy again shows little progress.

While the EU also recognises that the long-term solution should be a major reform of the international tax regime, the slow progress of the OECD’s effort is seriously testing the patience of many countries. Therefore, the EU has proposed the digital services tax as an “interim” measure.

Google as an example

The Senate enquiry into corporate tax avoidance revealed that Google is deriving billions of dollars of revenue every year from Australia but has been paying very little tax. In particular, the revenue reported to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in Australia in 2015 was less than A$500 million, with net profits of A$47 million.

The government responded by introducing the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law in 2016, targeting the particular tax structures used by multinational enterprises such as Google.

Google Australia’s 2016 annual report states that the company has restructured its business. Though not stated explicitly, the restructure was most likely undertaken in response to the introduction of this law.

As a result of the restructure, both revenue and net profits of Google Australia increased by 2.2 times.

However, here is the bad news. Though Google has reported significantly more profits in Australia, the profit margins of the local company remain very low compared to its worldwide group. For example, the net profit margin of Google Australia was 9% while that of the group was 22%.

Of course, a business may have different profit margins in different countries for genuine commercial reasons. However, based on our understanding of the tax structures of these multinationals, it’s likely that significant amounts of profits are booked in low-tax or even zero-tax jurisdictions.

This example suggests that while the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law is achieving its objectives, it alone is unlikely to be enough.

A digital services tax in Australia

The digital services tax is a turnover tax, not an income tax. This circumvents the restrictions imposed by the current international income tax regime.

The targets of this tax include income of large multinationals from providing advertising space (for example, Google), trading platforms (for example, eBay) and the transmission of data collected about users (for example, Facebook).

If Australia follows the model of the digital services tax, the new tax may generate substantial amount of revenue. For example, Google Australia’s revenue reported in its 2016 annual report was A$1.1 billion. A 3% tax on that amount would be A$33 million.

Along with the digital services tax proposal, the EU proposed the concept of “significant digital presence” as the long-term solution for the international tax system. The exact details are subject to further consultation. However, the relevant factors may include a company’s annual revenue from digital services, the number of users of such services, and the number of online contracts concluded on the platform.

The ConversationThe destiny of this proposal is unclear, but it’s likely to be subject to fierce debate among countries. In any case, the proposals of the digital services tax and the digital presence concept suggest there may be a paradigm shift in the thinking of tax policymakers in response to the challenges imposed by the digital economy that would be difficult, if not impossible, to resist.

Antony Ting, Associate Professor, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

As a new defence chief comes in, Australia must focus its attention on its neighbours



File 20180423 75126 t0obxl.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The incoming head of the Australian Defence Force, Lt-Gen Angus Campbell (left), understands the importance of Australia’s relations with its nearest neighbours.
AAP/Andrew Taylor

John Blaxland, Australian National University

On Anzac Day, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull commemorated the centenary of the battle at Villers-Brettoneux, where Australian soldiers defended against the German spring offensive of 1918. The opening of the Sir John Monash Centre honoured the celebrated commander of the Australian Corps in France at the tail end of the first world war.

So you would be forgiven if it appeared the Australian Defence Force was still orientated towards all things European. Indeed, in recent times, Australian forces have fought alongside many of those with whom we will commemorate the events at the Monash centre. France, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, among others, have been close partners in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq for the past two decades.

But the geostrategic context Australia faces in 2018 has changed markedly since 1918, let alone 2001, when Australian forces were committed into action in Afghanistan in the so-called global war on terror.

Australia increasingly is having to engage closely not just with close and trusted partners but with its own neighbours.

A new defence chief, major challenges

The current Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell was announced last week as the next Chief of Defence Force. Campbell has vast experience in military operations, including as a commander with the United Nations in East Timor and commander of Australian forces on operations in the Middle East.




Read more:
Media reporting on women in the military is preserving a male dominated culture


His time as the senior officer running Operation Sovereign Borders earned him some controversy for efficiently and effectively implementing the government’s “stop the boats” policy.

But the experience helped reinforce to him the significance of Australia’s relations with its immediate neighbours, most notably Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Campbell understands that operations far away tend to be ones of choice, while those closer to shore potentially present greater challenges for the nation.

The challenges ahead

Later this year, the ADF will assist with the APEC Forum in Port Moresby. Elements of the army, navy and air force will be assigned to provide critical security and other support for the smooth running of the forum, and to counter any potential crisis.

Beyond that, the Bougainville referendum is expected to be held in 2019. This was a date set 20 years ago, picked as a means to defuse tensions and postpone the inevitable question of autonomy or independence for the people of Bougainville. It is a particularly sensitive issue for Papua New Guinea, and managing bilateral relations over this could prove problematic.

In the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia, concerns about regional terrorist initiatives and a possible repeat of the circumstances that led to the battle of Marawi have prompted the ADF to look to engage more closely with counterparts in the armed forces of Australia’s neighbours.

Defence Cooperation Program activities are on the increase. These include partner exercises, training programs, ship visits, exchanges and various educational and training forums.

Across the Pacific, the prospect of human-generated or other environmental crises or disasters will continue to demand close attention from the ADF and Australian aid agencies.

Beyond such environmental challenges, the prospect of increased power contestation is focusing the minds of security policymakers on the importance of bolstering ties in places like Vanuatu, Tonga and Fiji. Partly in response, the Pacific patrol boat program is being revamped. Australia is supplying a fleet of new patrol boats with associated training, logistics and other related support included.




Read more:
Angus Campbell to head Australian Defence Force


The “Pacific Quad” also is emerging as a significant and growing force. This grouping includes French forces in New Caledonia, working on occasion alongside US, New Zealand and Australian forces, in anticipation of growing environmental and other security challenges where cooperation will be vital.

Another “Quad”, involving Australia, the United States, Japan and India, will likely attract attention as well. It may emerge as a significant body in shaping how to respond to the dramatic, rapid and unprecedented build-up of Chinese military force projection capabilities. This build-up includes modernised and expanded navies, air forces and human-constructed islands.

The spectrum of non-traditional and conventional security concerns in and around the Indo-Pacific suggests Campbell’s focus will be on managing relations with counterparts in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. At the same time, Australia’s legacy of involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan means that an enduring but carefully calibrated military footprint can be expected in both those countries.

Meanwhile, key challenges will revolve around managing security concerns in Papua New Guinea, terrorism-related concerns in Southeast Asia, a potential unravelling on the Korean Peninsula and contestation in the East and South China Seas. There will also be the seasonal, expected, but still devastating natural disasters in the Pacific.

With so much of concern nearby, a substantial military commitment alongside allies in Syria is unlikely. A peacekeeping force contribution is possible, though, if a political solution is ever reached.

Ties with the United States can be expected to remain wide, deep, intimate, strong and enduring. Indeed, while not willing to say so publicly, most of Australia’s neighbours remain uneasy about China’s military assertiveness and look to Australia to remain closely engaged with the United States.

The ConversationDespite the tweets emanating from the White House, insiders in Canberra see a significant and enduring overlap of interests and concerns with Washington. That is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, and Angus Campbell knows this well.

John Blaxland, Professor, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.