Tuesday, September 20, 2016

My #CensusFAIL Parliamentary Submission

This is my submission to the parliamentary inquiry into the 2016 Census failure. Submissions close tomorrow.

2016 Census Submission To Parliamentary Enquiry

20th September 2016

The 2016 Census has been an extraordinary failure at every level, and should have been abandoned as soon as this became clear. Unfortunately, it is all too typical of the unaccountable Neoliberal ideology plaguing Australia and the Western world today.

We need to see this #CensusFAIL in the context of the government's continued invasions of citizens’ privacy (with both major parties complicit). As Edward Snowden revealed, we are now helping the USA spy not just on all citizens of Australia, but on all citizens of the world. Neither major party has a problem with that. Quite the opposite: both major parties have supported draconian Data Retention legislation robbing citizens of the right to privacy. It is an appalling situation.
The ABS decision to retain names and addresses for Census 2016 was never adequately explained, because it is indefensible. We citizens were told by the (ir)responsible MP that "it doesn't matter" because so many of us willingly give up our privacy to companies like Facebook. But in fact intelligent citizens want nothing to do with such companies. And anyway, nobody is going to charge you $180/day if you don't join Facebook.
If the government abandons its responsibility to me, and fails to protect my privacy, there is no reason why I should willingly co-operate with further attempts to exploit me. Now I see the government wants to privatise the ASIC database. What happens if a future government decides to privatise the Census database? This is where we are heading.

The ABS wants to hold onto my name and address for years, tied to my family's personal information, and yet government institutions around the world are hacked regularly and this information (on millions of Australians) represents a prize target for hackers. Sorry, but I have no confidence that the government can be trusted.
And by the way, I used to work with IBM on the Gold Coast. IBM handled #CensusFAIL security and an ex-colleague Phillip Ny made headlines when he said that this data would "inevitably" be lost. He deleted that tweet, presumably under pressure of losing his job, but he was right. Those of us who understand software security have a much better idea of the threats than petty bureaucrats and careerist politicians.
The people who should be facing court over this #CensusFAIL disaster are the imbeciles at ABS who have wasted countless millions of dollars and destroyed public confidence in their institution.
The damage has now been done: millions have not completed the census, millions more have provided unreliable data because they rightly do not trust their government. Nobody but the fools responsible should be punished for it.
Gary Lord.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Today Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull assured citizens that the security of their Census 2016 data was 'absolute'.

"The security of their personal details is absolute and that is protected by law and by practice," he said. "That is a given."

But at almost the same time, Philip Nye, whom the Australian called "an IBM global security executive" on the Gold Coast, declared on Twitter that Australia’s sensitive census data will “inevitably” be hacked.

Nye made another important point: how would Australians even know if their census data was hacked?

“Since Australia doesn’t have mandatory disclosure laws, will we ever find out when Census data is inevitably breached?,” Mr Nye asked Prime Minister Turnbull and Gold Coast MP Steven Ciobo.

(NOTE: The government has proposed a "mandatory disclosure" bill to force organisations to disclose when they’ve had a ‘serious data breach’, but it is yet to be passed.)

Philip Nye deleted his tweets soon after the Murdoch media picked up on them, presumably because IBM have been the outsourcing partner for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) since 2011, when more than 2.6 million households across Australia submitted Census forms via IBM's web-based eCensus solution.

Of course, that was before Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 that all our phones and computers were being spied on by the US National Security Agency (NSA), with help from Australia's Pine Gap spy base.

So who are you going to believe? The Prime Minister who turned the NBN into a farce, or a security expert from IBM (who actually handle the ABS security) plus a former ABS staffer plus many other IT experts and privacy advocates?

The government is still insisting the 2016 Census will go ahead as scheduled on August 9th, despite calls from Independent Senators and MPs and the Greens to delay it and respond to privacy concerns.

It's also worth noting that IBM helped Adolf Hitler track all the Jews in Nazi Germany and manage their transportation to concentration camps. They still prefer not to talk about it.

Full Disclosure: I spent seven years working as a Technical Writer at IBM's Gold Coast office. In my opinion IBM is a corporation with no moral compass.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Some Thoughts On Australia's 2016 Election

Well I have not read any interesting analysis of Australia's recent election, so I will write something myself...

First thing to say: this boring, meaningless election was completely unecessary. PM Malcolm Turnbull cited his government's inability to pass union-bashing laws as an excuse to call a double dissolution election, but the Governor General should have denied his request. Industrial Relations laws hardly bring the nation to a standstill, so there was no real emergency. Anyway, the Abbott-Turnbull government was barely able to pass ANY laws through the Senate, because they flatly refused to compromise their blinkered neoliberal ideology. And of course the fact that this IR bill was barely even mentioned during the campaign (or since) proves that it was just a pathetic excuse.

Turnbull called the election early because his popularity was sinking steadily ever since he ousted the even less popular Tony Abbott. He should have called an election back then, citing the need for citizens to endorse the change of leader, but (a) he is too arrogant, and (b) his party was badly fractured and he could barely control his cabinet, let alone the country. And now, after barely scraping a win, he faces resignation calls from his own side. Karma?

This is the fate of nearly all Western political leaders today: the longer they stay in power, the less popular they become. The only things that seem able to sustain them are relentless "terror" fear-mongering and wars. So while the Liberals ruthlessly ridiculed the ALP's Rudd-Gillard-Rudd shenanigans, they end up facing the same conundrum. After a few expectant months, voters start to see past the smiling cheerleader's face and realise that nothing is really changing that will be of benefit to their lives. So given an opportunity, they express their disgust.

It was the same thing with the #Brexit vote in the UK, which stunned the world a week before Australians voted. And such expressions of disgust will continue until the major parties abandon their failed neoliberal agenda. It's worth noting that both the Coalition and ALP have seen their percentage share of the vote falling steadily since Gough Whitlam was ousted in 1975. The Reagan-Thatcher neoliberalism which blossomed in the 1980s is now toxic but we're still waiting for something to replace it.

And so we've seen 2016 election results favouring independents and minor parties, including the hate-filled Pauline Hanson team. The Coalition have stoked xenophobia as an excuse for war and then as justification for treating refugees like hardened criminals, so there's more karma when crazed bigots steal seats off them. By the way, only one Australian newspaper editorial backed Labor (Melbourne's Sunday Age). Hanson voters tend to be under-educated and badly informed. Where do you think they get their information?

It's also worth asking why the Greens did not do better in these circumstances. In the early weeks of the campaign, both major parties went to great lengths to attack the Greens, with the usual help from Murdoch and the increasingly right-wing ABC. New leader Richard Di Natale was excluded from all the leaders debates, even though journalists complained they were boring. But I've seen criticism that Di Natale failed to differentiate the Greens from the major parties, and I think there's some truth in that. I manned a Gold Coast booth for the Greens on election day and heard a lot of disenchanted young voters complaining "they are all the same."

I remain hopeful that the Greens can do a lot better. With no signs that media hostility will decrease, social media is the key. It's not enough to tour the country tweeting photos of the happy, smiling people you meet. Creative memes, informational graphics and clever hashtag campaigns are far more likely to interest new voters. But instead of another blistering Youtube speech from Senator Ludlam, for example, the 2016 Greens campaign seemed to get side-tracked with minor announcements. I'd like to see a more relentless focus on the big issues: climate change, corporate power and government transparency.

It's now a week since the election and the votes are still being counted, but any new government is likely to be very unstable and already there's talk that Australians might need to go to the polls again soon. If that's the case, I'd like to urge readers to get involved NOW with the Greens, who are the only party in Australian politics really capable of changing things. At the small booth I manned, for example, there was a 5.99% swing to the Greens. While that wasn't enough to unseat our super-safe Liberal Party MP, it could be the difference between Queensland getting one or two Greens into the Senate. The local Greens candidate confirmed that having somebody there with How-To-Vote-Greens cards makes a noticeable difference to the final results.

So what are you waiting for? Go to greens.org.au and get involved. Otherwise the next election will be just as boring and meaningless as this one was.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Australian Human Rights Commissioner Embarrassed Over #ASSANGE

An embarrassing letter from Australia's Human Rights Commission (published below) falsely claims that Julian Assange "has been charged". It says Mr Assange "has an opportunity to defend himself before the Swedish Court", when in fact he has been denied this opportunity precisely because, after more than five years, he still has NOT been charged. The letter further states that the Assange case is outside the Australian Human Rights Commission's jurisdiction, even though their own motto (as shown in the letter) is "Human rights: everyone, everywhere, everyday."

Dated 9 Dec. 2015, the letter is signed by Kelly O'Grady, the Executive Assistant to the President of the Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs. It was sent in response to a request for assistance from an Assange supporter named Chris.

To make matters even more embarrassing for Gillian Triggs, less than a month later, the United Nations ruled that Julian Assange has been unlawfully detained and should be immediately released and paid compensation by both Sweden and the UK. 

And then perhaps the ultimate embarrassment for a left-wing spokesperson: being rightly exposed by right-wing media commentator Miranda Devine. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention announced its decision on Friday 5 February 2016. Two days later, Miranda Devine published the following article in Rupert Murdoch's Sydney newspapers (this was not published online): 

Professor Triggs needs to realise that Julian Assange is also an asylum seeker. He has been granted political asylum by the government of Ecuador, and the United Nations has ruled that he has been unlawfully "arbitrarily detained" since 2010. He has NOT been charged by the disgracefully and willfully incompetent Swedish prosecutor, who  still has not even gone to London to question him. And how is anyone supposed to defend themselves in a court of law when they have not even been charged with anything?

Julian Assange did NOT choose to seek political asylum in order to avoid a court case in Sweden, as the letter above insinuates. The Ecuadorean government granted him asylum because of "multiple high-level threats against his life and liberty" from the USA. 

It's time for Gillian Triggs to apologise for the letter above, set the record straight, and speak up for the human rights of award-winning Australian journalist Julian Assange.

Julian Assange is Australia's one and only political refugee. He has been deprived of his basic human rights - including the right to fresh air, sunlight, and medical attention for 6 months of pain - precisely because he dared expose the US government's human rights abuses.

How is it possible that Gillian Triggs is not even aware of these basic facts? Who's rights is she really protecting? Australian citizens, or the US government?

When fellow journalist Peter Greste was awarded the Australian Medal For Human Rights in 2015, Gillian Triggs praised him at the ceremony, which took place one day after the letter above was sent. If that's not "outside her jurisdiction", then why is Assange?

Note: attempts to contact @GillianTriggs on Twitter today have been unsuccessful. I will keep trying for a response and update this post with more information as it comes to hand. Please let me know if you have any more relevant information: @jaraparilla.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Australia's Future: US Client State? Fascist State? Both?

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism - ownership of government by an individual, or by a group.”
 - US President Franklin Roosevelt.
"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism, because it is a merger of State and Corporate power."
 - Italian Fascist Dictator, Benito Mussolini.

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has spelled out the Abbott government's chilling vision for the future of Australia's Defence Forces. There are two key themes: closer integration between government and industry, and closer integration with the United States. In other words, lots of US corporations will be making lots of money from Australian taxpayers, especially if we continue to be involved in ill-considered US military adventurism. But don't worry, voters - there will be opportunities for Australian businesses to reap profits too!

In his Canberra address to the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia on August 26th, Mr Andrews outlined key elements of the forthcoming Defence White Paper, which seeks to guide strategy for the next decade or more. The government wants a "high technology future force" but this "will depend on our capacity to partner with... the US industrial base, as we are doing now."

In fact, these plans will ensure that Australia loses all pretense of sovereignty and becomes fully consumed into the sprawling US "military-industrial complex" (as former US President Eisenhower famously termed it in his 1961 farewell speech). Mr Andrews seems delighted at the prospect, repeatedly embracing closer integration between Canberra, Washington, and military industries.

"In the past," he says, "not enough has been done to recognise the importance of industry’s contribution to Defence and national security more broadly." Does he want medals awarded to the CEO's of major arms companies, or statues erected in their honour? No, he wants a "new way of doing business".

In the future, says Mr Andrews, "it will be mandatory for Defence to consider Australian industry in the formal capability development process."

"For the first time, government will recognise the vital role of Australian industry as a fundamental input to Defence capability."

Does that sound like the government is ready to outsource the defense of our nation to private companies? The language being used certainly sounds like all-too-familiar "privatisation" talking points.

Mr Andrews warns that "our defence industrial base is no longer structured or managed to provide major platforms in a timely manner." Apparently, whatever these "platforms" are, this is the Labor Party's fault.

"When the Government was elected in September 2013," says the Defence Minister, "six years of prolonged under-investment was placing Australia’s security in jeopardy."

The irony is that Australia remains one of the safest nations on earth, where people from countries we help destablize flock (if they can) to seek refuge. Our government is helping the USA spy on all our citzens, plus our neighbours, so there's very little chance of anyone springing an attack, even if they wanted to (which they don't). Our Navy boats can even invade Indonesian waters with impunity! The only real enemies we face are the terrorists our government has helped the USA create.

But Defence White Papers are all about imagining potential future enemies, not building peace. In this paranoid worldview, where fears can be exploited for profits, the only way to be safe is to "build an even closer partnership between government and industry" which will "spur more affordable war winning technology." In other words, ever more money for ever more weapons.

And of course: "The US Alliance will remain fundamental to our security and defence planning, and the highest priority for our international cooperation."

Mr Andrews repeatedly embraces the Orwellian term "rebalance" to describe the USA's expanding military presence in Asia-Pacific region. It's a puzzling term: does it imply that the Pacific rim was once "balanced" - perhaps after the USA bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Or does it suggest that the US military itself has been out of balance since they launched their ill-considered attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan?

At any rate, Andrews wants to "enhance military interoperability with the United States" (such as the very expensive Talisman Sabre war games), "exercise joint collective capabilities" (hello Pine Gap and the NSA) and "demonstrate our mutual resolve" (to do what?). He praises the growing US Marines base in Darwin, saying Canberra wants to see more "enhanced cooperation", particularly between the US and Australian air forces and navies. And, perhaps with a nod to Jeb Bush's Neoconservative friends, he welcomes US plans to "sustain & advance US military superiority for the 21st Century... within a resource constrained environment."

Yes, Minister, we all know how "constrained" US military spending is. 

On the vexed question of submarines, Kevin Andrews says he has been "fundamentally guided by the key principles laid out by the RAND Corporation, which we commissioned to conduct a detailed review of the Australian naval shipbuilding industry". But the RAND Corporation, originally formed by the Douglas Aircraft Company, is a global think tank mostly financed by the US government and US corporations. If Australian government and military decision-making is now "fundamentally guided" by such US entities, have we already been absorbed into the US military-industrial complex?

"To date," the Defence Minister continues to boast, "Australia is the only country approved to acquire and operate both the Super Hornet and Growler – two aircraft that are at the absolute forefront of the United States’ air power capabilities, reflecting Australia’s position as a trusted capability partner."

Indeed. The US military jealously guard their top secret hardware and software, prompting many allies to complain when they do not get full access to control billion-dollar purchases. But is Australia really a "trusted partner" or just an obedient, well-trained "poodle"? Either way, the US military industry is already making good money from us. Australia is buying eight P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft from the US, as part of a $5 billion investment, plus fifty eight F-35A Joint Strike Fighters (JSF), at a cost of at least $12 billion, even though they have been widely ridiculed as a massive waste of money. And there's more where that came from.

"US prime companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon have been identifying international opportunities and awarding contracts to some of Australia’s most innovative companies," declares Mr Andrews with pride. And over fifty Australian companies have been "approved" for the new Australia-US Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty. These, presumably, are the businesses that stand to reap profits from future years of "defence" spending. No doubt they are generous political donors too.

If this is really the future for Australia's military spending, we are all in a lot of trouble. Businesses are designed to grow from continued profits, and there are only two ways to continually grow military industries: either endless wars, or reckless, wasteful over-spending.

Only a deeply irresponsible government would commit Australia to such a path. So where is the Opposition on this - ready to speak up for Australian sovereignty? Or are we already a US Client State?

And where are the saner voices within the Australian military? Our grand-parents and great-grand-parents died fighting the threat of Fascism as it spread across Europe. Will we now meekly surrender to this new threat of Neoconservative, Neoliberal, 21st Century Corporate Fascism?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Australian Journo Grills Foreign Minister on Assange Case

Transcript of exchange between a Canberra journalist* and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop:

Journo: Ms Bishop, do you have any comment on the latest news about Julian Assange?

Julie Bishop: No. Next question.

Journo: But Ms Bishop, it's been five years since accusations of so-called "minor rape" were levelled against Mr Assange - an Australian citizen - and the Swedish prosecutor has failed to pursue the case before the legal statute of limitations expired. She previously insisted it was against Swedish law to question Mr Assange in the UK, and yet Sweden questioned 44 other suspects in Britain over the past 5 years. Have you raised this lack of due process with your Swedish counterpart?

Julie Bishop: As I understand, there were two women involved. And the statute of limitations is only expiring on one woman's allegations. It therefore remains a legal case between the Swedish government and Mr Assange, so it would be inappropriate for me to comment.

Journo: So does the Australian government plan to keep doing and saying nothing for another five years? Seriously?

Julie Bishop: We have given Mr Assange the same level of consular support that we give to other Australian citizens in similar situations.

Journo: That's not true. For example, you personally intervened to speak up for an Australian woman who was detained in the Middle East. And former Foreign Minister Bob Carr joked in his book about how he had upset Mr Assange's mother by ignoring the case. He lied on national TV a week before the last election when he said he had no idea about the US Grand Jury investigating WikiLeaks -

Julie Bishop: Let me just repeat myself once again. This is a consular matter. It's up to the High Commissioner in London to provide whatever assistance he thinks is necessary.

Journo: But the High Commissioner in London is Alexander Downer, who was complicit in the "supreme crime" of invading Iraq as part of the US-lead "Coalition Of The Willing". He was also complicit in the cover-up of Australian Wheat Board sales to Saddam Hussein. He's hardly a fitting person to trust when it comes to protecting an Australian whistle-blowing journalist from the US government, is he?

Julie Bishop: That's an outrageous thing to say. Who let this person in here?

Journo: Ms Bishop, can we just go back to the latest news from Sweden? Will you at least consider expelling the Swedish Ambassador to Australia?

Julie Bishop: What? Why on earth would I do that?

Journo: Well, for starters, he has misrepresented the case and tried to intimidate Australian journalists into silence.

Julie Bishop: Well, that sounds like a very good idea.

Journo: Expelling the ambassador?

Julie Bishop: No, silencing journalists. Security! Remove this man!

(* not an actual journalist, nor - sadly - an actual conversation. Of course no journalist prepared to question the Foreign Minister in this way would even be allowed access. But it would be nice if they could at least try.)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

#3years2long Message From Christine Assange

This is the text of the message from Julian Assange's mother Christine, which was read out in her absence (due to flu) at the Sydney #3years2long rally yesterday:

Welcome!...and many thanks to supporters old and new for being here today, to stand up for justice for Australian journalist Julian Assange, and his work as Editor in Chief of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks.

Although uncharged with any crime, anywhere in the world, at the request of the US , the UK Govt has detained Julian for nearly 5 years now, under constant 24 hour surveillance and house arrest.

Today marks 3 yrs of his refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Ecuador granted Julian political asylum due to threats on his life and liberty by the US Govt and its agencies.

Again, bowing to US pressure, the UK Govt breached international law with a 3 year ongoing 24 hr police siege of the Ecuadorean Embassy, preventing Julian leaving to take up lawful residency in Ecuador. This misuse and waste of police time and money has cost the UK taxpayer upwards of £10 mill and climbing.

London's Lord Mayor has expressed concern that these resources would be better spent on real policing. Perhaps this money and police resources could be directed into a thorough investigation of the longstanding serious allegations of unsavoury criminal activity among a certain group of politicians in the UK parliament!

For the past 5 years Julian has been denied legal rights and justice. For the past 3 years the UK Govt has denied him even the basic human rights given to prisoners..the right to have a minimum of 1 hour a day of exercise, fresh air and sunshine.

Why is this happening to an uncharged multi-award winning investigative journalist? Could it have something to do with Wikileaks busily exposing corruption in high places?

Blockading Julian in the embassy for the past 3 years has ironically backfired on the US. With more time on his hands Julian and Wikileaks have been even more prolific, transitioning from being perceived as a maverick outsider to a globally respected and trusted media organisation.

With a new state of the art submission system and sophisticated archival and search facilities, Wikileaks is leading a transformation in journalism, and is now a valued resource for investigative journalists globally. Thanks to whistleblowers and Wikileaks the world has recently been informed about the details of the biggest so called Free Trade Agreement in history, the TPP and her ugly sisters TISA and the TTIP.

These 3 treaties were to be kept secret from the public until 5 years after being signed. This Trojan Horse of ruthless US corporations would turn our Parliaments into brothels and our politicians into mere pimps of Wall St...A corporate caliphate straddling the world like a giant octopus with its tentacles reaching into and controlling every aspect of our lives..undermining our environment, businesses, farms, health services, civil rights, democracy and sovereignty.
Julian and the Wikileaks team have reached out to protect  whistleblowers and journalists world wide. After helping Edward Snowden to safety, in 2013 they set up The Courage Foundation. The board of directors also includes lawyers, journalists and whistleblowers from the CIA, FBI and MI5. The Courage Foundation gives whistleblowers and journalists the skills and resources to protect themselves from political persecution, and runs the Legal Defence Fund for Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers.
Since being trapped in the Embassy by the UK Govt, Julian has found the time to write and co-author 3  highly informative books and produce 2 powerful films on power and corruption...all of which were well received. His book "When Google Met Wikileaks" is a constant reference for those interested in the Surveillance State.
Last year the European Parliament invited Julian to address them on corruption based on the Wikileaks Cablegate documents.
Wikileaks has been successful in its legal actions against the 3 big corporations, Pay Pal, MasterCard and Visa, who were involved in the illegal Banking Blockade against Wikileaks donations.
Shining a light on the absurdity of Julians extradition case was instrumental in getting the European Arrest Warrant legislation changed in the UK, so that UK citizens can no longer be extradited without charge.
We need a brave new media for our Brave New World of Globalisation and Mass Surveillance. The world needs whistleblowers and journalists who will give us the truth, so we have the correct information to solve our problems, and protect ourselves from the abuses of power.
Julian once described Wikileaks as "The Intelligence Agency of the People"
It is a fitting description!
The truth..from the people.
For the people.
Funded and defended
By the people.
Julian and the Wikileaks team have shown extraordinary courage under fire.
The UK Govt has shown extraordinary cowardice!
Julians fight for justice and freedom is everyones fight for justice and freedom.
His future is our future and our children's future.
Despite everything, Wikileaks and Julian are still standing, and we are all still standing with them.