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Crikey Says

Oct 23, 2014

Crikey says: we stand with Freya

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Freya Newman, the 21-year-old student who blew the whistle on a secret scholarship awarded by a private design school to Tony Abbott’s daughter, should be applauded for her bravery.

Newman’s sentencing was delayed this morning and had not yet been handed down at the time of Crikey’s deadline. She faces two years in jail for accessing restricted data on a computer at the Whitehouse Design Institute, where she once worked as a library assistant.

There is no doubt that the information Newman leaked was in the public interest. In our minds, there is also no doubt that if Frances Abbott were not the Prime Minister’s daughter, Newman would not be in court today, facing jail for her actions.

As Whistleblowers Australia president Cynthia Kardell told Crikey after news of the scholarship was first broken by news website New Matilda:

“Police do have discretion. They don’t investigate everything that turns up on their doorstep. Often … they’ll investigate if there’s a strong political interest. There’s an amazing amount of money and power on the father’s side, who has full access to the law and can find ways to use the government to push it along. No doubt somewhere along the way, someone will ask him whether this use of the Crimes Act is heavy-handed.”

Whistleblowers like Newman take massive personal risks. In return, they often face smear campaigns and a lifetime of being branded a “troublemaker”. Taking on powerful individuals and institutions takes a financial and emotional toll, too.

That’s why media outlets must take a stand in their defence and acknowledge the critical role they play in exposing information those in power would prefer remained hidden.

Crikey stands in support of Freya Newman, and all whistleblowers who risk their personal freedom to expose corrupt behaviour by those in power.

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52 comments

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52 thoughts on “Crikey says: we stand with Freya

  1. Yclept

    Gone back on your word already Norman. You said you weren’t going to be demanding of me.

    For a self confessed IT illiterate, you have this trolling thing down pat.

  2. Norman Hanscombe

    Yclept, your problem seems more one of pink elephants than of straw men. Please TRY to read posts more carefully and then if you can find where [[as you report in POST #49 at 11.02 a.m.]] I supposedly asserted you said it isn’t illegal to obtain data the way she did, give readers the POST number and date so they can judge for themselves whether or not I wrote what you claim.
    Then please consider enrolling in an appropriate reading course.

  3. Yclept

    Thanks for the straw man Norman. Did you think we’d all miss it amongst your overly verbose ramblings.

    Where exactly did I say it isn’t illegal for Newman to obtain the data?

  4. Yclept

    David, you must be running out of straw! Where exactly did I say it isn’t illegal for Newman to obtain the data?

    Just because something is illegal doesn’t mean it isn’t in the public interest, especially in the fascist state of your hero Tony.

  5. Norman Hanscombe

    Klewso, you might consider trying to write less ambiguous comments. Frankly, if I were a right-winger I’d hope posts such as yours did “spread to other parts of the community”, because your sort of rabid outbursts are perfect ammunition for driving people into your opponents’ camps. The main (as you put it) “personal affront” contained in your posts is to the English language; but should you decide to seek help, whatever you do don’t get it from drdmithy et al.

  6. drsmithy

    Breaking into a house using keys hanging in the door and stealing something valuable is a crime. It’s great that you are finally coming to the view that Newman committed a crime.

    You are peddling a straw man.

  7. klewso

    This is the comments section.
    They’re not here to debate. They’re here to defend their “Right to berate with impugnity” – to attempt to cow, stand-over, stifle and discourage negative comments re their conservative creed – lest such negativity take root and spread to other parts of the community.
    Criticism of conservative dogma and politicians, seems a personal affront – do that and you risk the wrath of their “Crikey crypt” personal attack.

  8. David Hand

    Y,
    Breaking into a house using keys hanging in the door and stealing something valuable is a crime. It’s great that you are finally coming to the view that Newman committed a crime.

    Burglary and theft are crimes that people go to prison for all the time.

  9. Norman Hanscombe

    David, I’m sure poor Yclept means well, even if his non sequitur / ad hominem ravings about Abbott don’t help Yclept’s imagined “case”. The only way Freya’s apologists can argue at best is that she did nothing wrong is to claim it’s perfectly all right to use a password you somehow manage to obtain to gain access to an organisation’s restricted files.
    Quite apart from that there has been nothing even remotely credible supplied so far that substantiates ANY impropriety on the part of those these ‘noble’ defenders of apple pie and motherhood obsessions wish to pillory.
    As I found when checking the academic careers of our Graduate Honours students in 1965, where they’d had only one failure on their way to success, the one course with which they couldn’t cope was basic Philosophy I.
    So let’s not demand more from Yclept.

  10. Yclept

    Norman, the only charge David could be accused of is logical inconsistency, you seem somewhat muddled on this.

    And as drsmithy rightly points out, if you don’t have a clue about IT, how can you have such firm opinions. Newman’s “skillful hacking” is as skillful as breaking into a house when the keys are hanging in the door.

  11. Yclept

    David, after complaining of not being able to initiate a debate on the topic you then immediately ignore the reality of the situation and go back to troll mode.

    Continue defending your hero Tony, who so obviously shows “the age of entitlement” is not over, or not for the RWNJs that are obviously above the law.

    Your blind support for such a mean spirited, obnoxious, excuse for a man says so much about yourself in your RW “I’m alright jack” world.

  12. drsmithy

    Thanks for the post, Norman, most helpful. Will undoubtedly save me time in the future.

    Drsmithy, it’s amazing that you can post such nonsense about hacking and seemingly believe it could be taken seriously. An I.T. Illiterate such as myself can read a screen when someone forgets to log out; […]

    One wonders why a self-professed “IT Illiterate” feels competent to pass judgement in these sort of discussions at all ?

    […] but even with people who are far more au fait with computers than I’ll ever be, most lack the skills required for hacking of the sort carried out by Freya.

    As one of those “people who are far more au fait” with computers than you are – indeed, as someone whose career in no small part revolves around them – I feel quite confident that my example will be “taken seriously” by anyone who isn’t reading out of The Australian’s editorial pages.

    According to reports, Miss Newman “used another staff member’s login to access details of Frances Abbott’s scholarship.”

    Here in the real world, rather than conservative fantasy-land, you would struggle to find many individuals between the ages of 5 and 40 for whom this would be considered ‘skilful’ or ‘hacking’. For this demographic, typing in someone else’s username and/or password is something the oldest would have done in High School and the youngest are doing every weekend on their parents’ iPhones and iPads to play games while they have a sleep in.

    I can guarantee you (from bitter experience) that most PAs, secretaries, and other similar subordinate staff would be aware of at least their boss’s “login”, and like several other senior employees’ as well. So Miss Newman being aware of “another staff member’s login” is, at its most dramatic, completely unsurprising.

    (Aside: This sort of security problem is the bane of IT departments across the world, and has been for, well, probably most of the time you’ve been alive.)

    Consequently, assertions that this was some sort of escapade that required advanced knowledge, pre-meditation, conspiracy, or basically anything else Mission-Impossible-esque the average punter imagines when they hear the word “hacking” on the news, are laughable to probably a third or more of the population, and flat-out comical to anyone who has more than a passing acquaintance with “computers”.

    As for unqualified people being given pretend jobs on our [Labor] side of politics, it’s equally reprehensible and far from uncommon — - and that’s not just a “hunch”.

    It’s probably best you don’t make assumptions about what “side” of politics someone else may or may not be on. You sound silly enough already.

  13. Norman Hanscombe

    Drsmithy, it’s amazing that you can post such nonsense about hacking and seemingly believe it could be taken seriously. An I.T. Illiterate such as myself can read a screen when someone forgets to log out; but even with people who are far more au fait with computers than I’ll ever be, most lack the skills required for hacking of the sort carried out by Freya.
    As for unqualified people being given pretend jobs on our [Labor] side of politics, it’s equally reprehensible and far from uncommon — and that’s not just a “hunch”.

  14. David Hand

    Doctor!
    What a great challenge!
    When I’m bored sometime I’ll google rellies of Labor politicians who have plumb jobs in unionised and of course union, workplaces. As all Labor and Union politics are riddled with opaque, secretive and unorthodox processes, it should be easy.

    The only barrier I anticipate is that the information may be locked in confidential files that might require me to, say, get a temp job there, nock a senior person’s I.D. and hack the info. When I publish it, I can expect you guys, and Crikey to leap to my defence as an intrepid defender of truth and justice.

    On second thoughts, that seems too inconvenient for me. I’ll just have to google it.

  15. drsmithy

    Using someone else’s log on identification to access confidential files that your own log on I.D. does not allow is an obvious form of hacking.

    Indeed. Though in this case about the same level of “hacking” involved in walking up to a laptop in an Apple store and reading someone’s private Facebook posts after they forgot to logout.

    Your second paragraph contains a bizarre and quaint notion that in 2014, a 23 year old adult is the property of her father. I would have thought aficionados of Crikey would be manning the barricades in defence of people over 21 being considered adult. No liberal politician was given $60,000.

    Somehow I think if a Labor politician’s child was given a $50,000 gift and a plumb job in a Unionised workplace through an opaque, secretive and unorthodox process, despite an apparent lack of qualification (or, indeed, even an actual job), you wouldn’t be so sanguine about their relationship.

    Just a hunch.

  16. Norman Hanscombe

    David Hand, you are aware your comments above leave you open to being charged with postmodernism’s most heinous crime, i.e. logical consistency?

  17. David Hand

    Y,
    Using someone else’s log on identification to access confidential files that your own log on I.D. does not allow is an obvious form of hacking.

    Your second paragraph contains a bizarre and quaint notion that in 2014, a 23 year old adult is the property of her father. I would have thought aficionados of Crikey would be manning the barricades in defence of people over 21 being considered adult. No liberal politician was given $60,000.

    No wrongdoing has been exposed.
    No change in process by the institute has occurred.
    The only person prosecuted is the hacker.

  18. Norman Hanscombe

    David Hand, we should try to understand that those whose True Beliefs cause them to be intolerant of anyone not sharing such beliefs are reacting to a human frailty, so surely we should try to not expect too much of them?

  19. Yclept

    David, your opening attack and the use of the emotive MSM “hacking” was hardly seeking an opportunity to discuss the issues. Hacking implies some deep computer knowledge and all I’ve heard is that she just used the password of someone else, same as using a filing cabinet key that was left lying around, hardly the act of sinister and deeply talented nerd.

    The fact that Abbott has received a $60,000 scholarship puts this squarely in the public interest, and I know for sure if it had been a Labour pollie accepting $60,000 the RW MSM would be crucifying them and demanding the whistle blower receive a title from the queen.

    I don’t think the Crikey regulars are that unsympathetic to alternate views, but they aren’t too welcoming of those that appear to be trolling.

    I’m happy for you to pay a subscription to keep Crikey afloat as we need media to the left of the far, far, far, right MSM. And if you wish to believe I can’t or won’t argue an issue if I choose, then you are welcome to believe that.

  20. CML

    @ Yclept #30 – I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you!!!!

    Don’t you all know by now that the rAbbott and his hangers-on can do no wrong, as far as the MSM is concerned? Get it right, all of you!!!!

  21. David Hand

    The thing is Y,
    I’m an inquiring person who is genuinely interested in the views of people who disagree with me.

    Firstly it educates me and on occasions may shift my own thinking about a matter.

    Secondly, those of a different view have an opportunity to think through my views and it may on occasion shift their own thinking.

    It puzzles me that those occupying the Crikey crypt are so unwelcoming of an alternative point of view. The wanker in me occasionally thinks that a “go away” note like yours in 29 appears because you can’t argue the issue.

  22. David Hand

    The thing is Y,
    I’m an inquiring person who is genuinely interested in the views of people who disagree with me.

    Firstly it educates me and on occasions may shift my own thinking about a matter.

    Secondly, those of a different view have an opportunity to think through my views and it may on occasion shift their own thinking.

    It puzzles me that those occupying the Crikey crypt are so unwelcoming of an alternative point of view. The wanker in me occasionally thinks that a f*ck off note like yours in 29 appears because you can’t argue the issue.

  23. Yclept

    Thanks Norman, I’m sure if I follow the MSM more closely I’ll get the truth (whole truth and nothing but).

  24. Yclept

    David, the same old complaints that Crikey isn’t as extremely RW as News and yet you still subscribe…

  25. klewso

    I’ll never understand why it’s so Right to publish and republish anything that embarrasses Labor and the Left (to white-ant voter perception of their ability to govern/electoral outcomes) : while self-censorship seems to be the order of the day when it comes to embarrassing Murdoch’s Limited News Party – in a media dominated as it is by Bolt-hole conservative values?
    …. But then again I’m not Right in the head.

  26. Brendan Jones

    > Doc – as has become increasingly common, half of the comments on this thread are from the same Magisterial Impotence.

    Yes, AR. And at the end of the day, the only person whom he has convinced of his arguments is himself.

    Until Crikey gets a [Mute] button, some advice from Mark Twain: ‘Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.’

  27. AR

    Doc – as has become increasingly common, half of the comments on this thread are from the same Magisterial Impotence (he thinks it’s omniscience)so the answer to your query re rhetorical waffle & self aggrandisement is “NO!”.
    I can’t be arsed to count his preponderance in other threads but increasingly, he tries to overwhelm with sheer verbiage – intrinsic relevance is not the point – just obfuscation, as with OneHand.
    He starts at sparrow in his ripostes and, as above, four in a row are not uncommon.
    D’ya reckon there is no-one/nothing else in his “life”?

  28. drsmithy

    drsmithy, surely you can’t be unaware of examples of this in the media? Don’t you have access to standard media sources?

    Surely you can add something of substance rather than rhetorical waffle and self-aggrandisement ?

  29. drsmithy

    From my point of view, no facts are in dispute doctor.

    So you see no ethical issues with the giving of gifts and favour to the family of high-level politicians through an utterly opaque process and subsequently shrouded in secrecy ?

  30. Norman Hanscombe

    Brendan, apart from a plug for your site, you’ve achieved little other than suggest you really don’t understand what’s involved in Freya’s actions.

  31. Norman Hanscombe

    max, if you had any experience with scholarships you might understand that your interpretation of what has been said is absurd.

  32. Norman Hanscombe

    AR, surely you could spell out your point better so that if Crikey installs the screening you suggest, it won’t affect you?

  33. Norman Hanscombe

    drsmithy, surely you can’t be unaware of examples of this in the media? Don’t you have access to standard media sources?

  34. AR

    Surely the failure to enter details on the Register of Pecuniary Interests has been investigated and the PM censured over his failure (at best) or deceit as normal?
    Oh look, up in the sky, it’s a B/S timewaster, it’s a troll.. it’s Porcus Aviatrix!
    PS Crikey, is there any way to receive notifications of thread comments that is screened for verbose pests?

  35. David Hand

    From my point of view, no facts are in dispute doctor.

  36. drsmithy

    The media today is replete with stories that destroy people’s reputations that have no basis in fact but which deliver eyeballs ears to media organisations.

    What facts are in dispute ?

  37. David Hand

    Absolutely wrong doctor.
    The media today is replete with stories that destroy people’s reputations that have no basis in fact but which deliver eyeballs ears to media organisations. So Newman’s crime is genuine. Actually I don’t think it has damaged the Abbott’sreputation very much because there is a story every single day that says essentially the same thing but it was unambiguously designed to do so.

  38. drsmithy

    Though I agree that if it were not the prime minister’s daughter Newman may well have not been in court today, the hacking was a direct attack on the stability of the Coalition government. Rather than whistleblowing it was designed to damage Tony Abbott’s reputation and make the process of government more difficult. If it were not the prime minister’s daughter, this activist would not have hacked it.

    If it can damage the stability of Government, it is, pretty much by definition, dealing with issues serious enough that “whistleblower” is a suitable term.

  39. Norman Hanscombe

    David, I’m relieved to learn you’re not holding your breath. Carried out to excess results can prove fatal. Perhaps you might benefit from someone holding your hand as a calming influence so that you don’t misunderstand what people are saying.
    As someone who was fighting Left causes probably long before you were thought of let alone born, I’d hope you would sympathise with my plight of having to endure absurdist ‘progressive’ left idiocies day in, day out. On the other hand, if you wish to influence people who might be susceptible to changing their positions on important complex issues, I’d recommend you reconsider the advisability of continuing your current style of relying primarily upon, shall we say, enthusiastic mantras.

  40. David Hand

    Y,
    Give me a break.
    Abbott is NOT my hero. I am NOT an Abbot lover.

    But every day, I get my Crikey email and it is an unrelenting stream of vitriol aimed at Tony Abbot for real, perceived and imagined sins.

    I you want me to stop criticising this lefty ghetto rag for its unrelenting inner urban green left crusade against Tony Abbott, get them to write about something else.

    I’m not holding my breath.

  41. Norman Hanscombe

    Matt Hardin, many scholarships aren’t pouring from some metaphorical fountain, but it might help us understand your mission better if you explained what you meant by “very rarely”. Ditto re what you meant by suggesting there was a lack of standard “transparency”. As for alleged “favourable government treatment” allegedly received by whatever “class of institutions” you have in mind, since this allegedly occurred afterwards, providing a plausible case for your thesis it was a bribe really does need some basis for your overall quaint thesis.
    Announcing she deserves praise for what appears to many as a politically motivated vindictive action is essential IF you’re right and she is a heroine.

  42. Matt Hardin

    The facts of the awarding of the scholarship suggest that the scholarship was very rarely awarded and that there was no transparency in the awarding of it, also the institutute (or the class of institutions that it was part of) received favourable government treatment subsequent to the awarding of the scholarship. This to me suggests corruption and hence Ms Newman’s actions are those of a whistle blower. She is to be admired for the courage of her convictions and the fortitude to accept the consequences.

  43. max

    Abbott was only the second recipient of the prize, which was not advertised to other students. Whitehouse has declined to detail the application process and criteria for awarding the scholarship.

    According to its website, Whitehouse “does not currently offer scholarships to gain a place”, but the college has maintained it offers a variety of scholarships and all “are discretionary and awarded on merit”.

    ^quotes from http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/oct/23/freya-newman-sentence-deferred-frances-abbott-scholarship-leak

    That might not constitute illegality, but it reeks of corruption and will continue to while the whistleblower is persecuted and her claims go un-investigated.

  44. Norman Hanscombe

    max, if it’s not asking too much, either explain what your personal meaning is for the word ‘illegal’ OR explain what actions you imagine to have been illegal.
    While you’re at it, max, an explanation re why anyone associated with possible political beliefs you don’t share is less entitled to accept scholarships than are those whose political beliefs you support?

  45. Norman Hanscombe

    max, please give serious thought to checking on how the scholarship was won and why Freya chose to not raise an ethical issue but rather chose to launch a political attack. Remember assessing situations shouldn’t rely heavily on our pre-determined prejudices.

  46. Norman Hanscombe

    Yclept, were you more observant you wouldn’t hold the absurd belief about a “state Premier resigns over a bottle of over-rated plonk.” Following the news more closely might have helped there?

  47. max

    Considering your own ideological vilification of Newman David, I’d say she’s one of those genuine whistle-blowers that is having their reputation and career damaged after exposing illegal activity…

    The public deserves to know about unusual and incredibly generous scholarships being awarded to the daughter of our head of state, if that damages the government it’s Abbott’s fault for accepting the scholarship, not the messenger’s for telling us about it.

  48. Yclept

    Supporting your hero again David. Good to see he can do no wrong in your eyes. Of course a $60,000 scholarship wasn’t being used to buy influence. Why should Tony be accountable for such a thing when a state Premier resigns over a bottle of over-rated plonk.

    How could Abbott’s reputation be damaged any more than he does all by himself.

    And by the way where are all the legal actions against government ministers for leaking confidential information when it suits them?

  49. Brendan Jones

    > She faces two years in jail for accessing restricted data on a computer

    Now that’s interesting. Last September I found public servants in the Department of Defence were using web surveillance company Blue Coat Systems to circumvent the access security on my web site: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Coat_Systems

    I saved the logs: http://victimsofdsto.com/doc/Blue_Coat_Systems/

    I wrote to Public Service Minister Eric Abetz, who claimed he could do nothing but that instead (although it was clearly not an intelligence operation) said I could report it to IGIS (you know, the same mob who refused to investigate ASIO spying for Woodside): https://tinyurl.com/pq94v49

    Reported it to the NSW Police… who didn’t even respond to the complaint.

    Reported it to ACLEI (the AFP watchdog) who didn’t do anything either.

    Also reported it to Justice Minister Michael Keenan… who also did nothing.

    It’s also a felony violation of the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (since the target system was in the US). So to hell with Australian law enforcement (now there’s an oxymoron if ever I heard one); I’d do better to report it to the FBI instead: http://victimsofdsto.com/debunking-dreyfus/#_edn614

    Yet the police were very quick to prosecute Freya Newman, yet there are many federal corruption cases – years old – which remain uninvestigated. I compiled a list of them here from public sources: http://victimsofdsto.com/royal-cosgrove-2/#cases

    All this makes the point, in Australia public officials are free to break the law without fear of prosecution, yet members of the public cannot.

    US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: “Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”

  50. Norman Hanscombe

    David, those attacking Freya may have a justification for doing so, but many of them will be doing it for the wrong reasons, just as many of those defending her are also doing it for the wrong reasons. Our species DNA makes non-emotive analysis of significant complex issues possible, but far from probable.

  51. David Hand

    Newman is not a whistle blower and it is an insult to those who genuinely risk their reputations and careers to expose illegal activity that would otherwise have remained hidden.

    She is an extreme left wing activist who has committed a crime and subsequently pleaded guilty to it.

    Though I agree that if it were not the prime minister’s daughter Newman may well have not been in court today, the hacking was a direct attack on the stability of the Coalition government. Rather than whistleblowing it was designed to damage Tony Abbott’s reputation and make the process of government more difficult. If it were not the prime minister’s daughter, this activist would not have hacked it.

    And Kardell’s view is laughable. A crime was committed. That crime damaged the government. The perpetrator has pleaded guilty. Frances Abbott has not had to refund the scholarship. The institute is handing out its scholarships in exactly the same way now as it did before this hacking occurred.

    The hacking has changed absolutely nothing apart from damaging Tony Abbott’s reputation. But that’s why you guys love Newman.

  52. Norman Hanscombe

    Having known a NSW Education Department teacher who stood up to both the Department and the NSWTF who backed the Principal against allegations of not performing his duties, perhaps I’m less easily impressed than is Crikey.
    The Department with Union backing did a faux investigation and cleared the Principal. When the teacher persisted, he was offered a transfer to another school if he’d drop the allegations, and if he refused to do this because he was in his first year of appointment his employment could be annulled without appeal, and this was being done without even telling him.
    He had the good fortune to be told about this by an Education Head Office employee, but then lodged a further complaint making it clear he would go public if nothing was done. The Department held another review but although it demoted the Principal to classroom status, he was allowed to retire immediately on his Principal’s salary superannuation, and no mention was made of assault incidents I’d documented.
    Two temporary teachers the Principal had sacked were given permanent positions, but the valuable position of the Education Department Officer who assisted was abolished.
    As for Crikey’s current crusade, I’d suggest you look more carefully at whether there was ANY credible improper involvement by ANYONE. and if so do what hasn’t been done so far, detail it. While you’re at it, I’d be interested in hearing why what seems to have been a politically influenced action by the “whistle-blower” deserves the status of Caesar’s Wife.

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