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Sep 5, 2012

National security hysteria, the fastest-growing crime in Aust

Wild claims about cybercrime are a key tool in inflating spending on cybersecurity and expanding the powers of governments, like the latest proposal for two-year data retention.


Yesterday Attorney-General Nicola Roxon attended the Security in Government Conference in Canberra, a gathering of industries that make money from national security theatre. Her speech touched on proposals currently before the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and appeared to support the proposal for two-year data retention.

This was at odds with the Attorney-General’s Department discussion paper, which merely put forward data retention as a proposal on which the government was seeking views. That is, having gone to the effort of establishing an inquiry into extensions of national security powers, an effort that entailed some wrestling with the powerful JCIS, Roxon has simply pre-empted the committee’s inquiry, hearings for which kicked off this morning in Melbourne.

How well that goes down with people such as Kevin Rudd, George Brandis, Andrew Wilkie and John Faulkner remains to be seen.

This is one of the most important issues in Australian public policy now. The proposals put forward by AGD are extraordinary in their scope and amount to a systematic invasion of every Australian’s privacy. AGD has failed to put forward a coherent justification for most of them, and indeed failed to even “discuss” data retention in its “discussion paper”. Labor’s Attorney-General appears to be supporting the worst of them. And the mainstream media, with the honourable exception of Fairfax’s Dylan Welch, is failing to provide appropriate coverage.

If there was appropriate coverage, certain claims might not be taken at face value. Like this: yesterday, Roxon unveiled the results of a government-commissioned study on identity theft. It was, the Attorney-General said, the fastest-growing crime in the country, and one in four Australians had experienced it or knew someone who had.

Now, there are quite a few contenders for the crown of our fastest-growing crime. In 2005, retail theft was the “fastest-growing property crime”. According to The Daily Telegraph, wildlife smuggling is one of our fastest-growing criminal industries. Today Tonight claims petrol theft (!) is our fastest-growing crime. And don’t be confused by international comparisons — apparently people trafficking is the world’s fastest-growing crime. And last year Cisco predicted that filesharing, which according to the copyright cartel already costs hundreds of billions of dollars, will double by 2015. Sounds pretty fast-growing to me.

So where does this claim about “fastest-growing crime” come from? The Australian Federal Police, who’ve been repeating the line for years. In 2005, then commissioner Mick Keelty claimed “[i]n Australia identity crime is regarded as one of the fastest-growing crime areas, with Austrac estimating that in 2001-2002 it cost our country more than $1 billion”.

And where did they get it from? Well, in 2007, the AFP told a Commonwealth-state committee “recent international research that indicates identity crime is the fastest-growing crime type, possibly running close to 30% growth, therefore in Australia could currently be inflicting a $4 billion annual loss to the community.”

And yes, in 2004 the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission were making similar claims about the United States. But — alack! — ID theft has since lost its mojo over there.  There are several other contenders for fastest-growing US crime now — mobile phone theftemployee theft; the chair of the Congressional Judiciary Committee claimed child p-rnography was the fastest-growing crime. In fact, by 2010, the FBI was admitting to Congress ID theft wasn’t even a priority for it any more.

So, here we are nearly a decade on in Australia, with our politicians still recycling lines based on long-outdated American claims.

Anyway. I’ve digressed from a digression: what does the study unveiled by Roxon actually say? It concludes, based on a sample of 1200 people, that 7% of people had experienced a form of ID theft, and a further 17% of people reported “it happened to a person I knew”.

What did ID theft involve? The list is: loss of credit card or debit card; via internet through virus or bad software; via internet through a scam like an email about an inheritance or lottery win or on a social networking or dating site; mail theft; loss of document like passport, Medicare card, driver’s licence or birth certificate; telephone.

So, get some malware, have your mail nicked, or lose your driver’s licence, or have someone try to use your credit card details and you’re classed as a victim of ID theft. Incidentally, it’s great to see malware doing double duty — not only is it helping to inflate ID theft statistics, it also helped to inflate “cybercrime” statistics this time last year.

But even with such a wide-open definition, the study could only manage 7% (which, incidentally, matches American results to similar questions). Why did they include the thing about happening to someone you knew? That tells us nothing about the incidence of the crime, unless you don’t think your methodology is very sound in the first place. It looks a lot like they simply wanted to bulk up the results to get as big a number as possible.

By comparison, let’s look at some figures from the ABS. In data released earlier this year for 2010-11, only 0.2% of the population had experienced actual identity theft. When you include credit card theft, the incidence rises to 3.98%. That represented a rise from about 3.1% in 2007. So, if identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in Australia, we needn’t be too worried.

The report also included “expectations of identity theft risk” (inevitably, people think it will increase; when was the last time people thought crime would decrease?), and invited people to explain why. Amid all the predictable reasons were some choice ones, such as “criminal numbers rising/Third World people have access to us now” and some “because internet” ones, but 9% of people thought ID theft would increase because it “has been publicised more”.

Of course it has been publicised more. Gatherings like the one opened yesterday by Roxon exist to publicise identity theft, and cybercrime, and warn of cyberwar and the digital Pearl Harbor and anything else that can whip up a state of fear in the minds of the public and particularly in the minds of politicians and public servants who hold the purse strings on which this industry depends.

Unlike the normal, frequently tense, relationship between rent-seekers and government, when it comes to national security rent-seekers, there’s a cosy union of interests with government. The latter can invoke national security and hysteria over identity theft, or cyber crime, or terrorism, or filesharing, or artificial wars such as the war on drugs, as a pretext to extend surveillance and criminal justice powers and curb the rights of citizens. And corporations, consultants and lobbyists facilitate an environment that encourages them, because the flip side of the hysteria is more funding for national security theatre, more funding for protective measures, more money for cybersecurity, more money for “risk management” programs like the one Roxon devoted part of her speech yesterday to lauding.

So add the war on ID theft to the war on terror, and the war on drugs, and the war on cybercrime, and every other war we’re told we must fight. They’re wars intended never to be won, because that would defeat their very purpose — more money to companies and more power to governments.

*Tomorrow: why “balance” is the big lie of the national security debate (disclosure: Bernard Keane made a submission to the JCIS inquiry in a private capacity)


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63 thoughts on “National security hysteria, the fastest-growing crime in Aust

  1. fractious

    Brilliant, thanks Bernard for the analysis and the questioning, and the background research from the US deflating (if not disproving) the rhetoric and windy claims from the usual self-interested suspects – the AFP, ATO, ASIO and (as you put it) the “industries that make money from national security theatre.” Even if cybercrime was the “fastest growing crime” I haven’t seen any explanation as to how such severe infringements of people’s rights to privacy and expression will make a jot of difference say three years down the track, when most of the perpetrators will have devised any number of new means of getting around the measures Roxon and the AGD want to ram through. Rather like inventors of malware are always half a step ahead of anti-malware.

  2. Mark Duffett

    Anything using the phrase ‘fastest growing’ should instantly trigger a BS alert. It’s routinely used in all sorts of spheres to inflate perceptions of something coming off an extremely low base (renewable energy is another common example), benefiting as it does from the fundamental mathematical instability of dividing by numbers very close to zero. Indeed, all you need to do is come up with a new crime, say streaking through Parliament House, and you can then say its incidence is increasing infinitely quickly.

  3. Andrew Rreilly

    It’s worth wondering “why now?”, I think. What has changed in the internet landscape recently, to prompt such a radical proposal? The biggest thing that I can think of is cloud services like iCloud, google docs and the soon-to-be-big MS Live services. The difference (from the Web and Web-2.0 days) is that instead of just a trail of URLs from browsers, some e-mail and facebook updates, people are being encouraged to move their entire digital existence (or large chunks of it) into “the cloud”. In order to get your data into and out of the cloud, it has to go through your ISP. So logging all traffic will (soon) amount to retaining copies of *all* your stuff: photos, documents, address books, the lot. Many people who still keep their data on their home PC also use cloud-based backups, so it’s still all going over the wires. Now most of these services are supposed to be cryptographically secured, so perhaps there is nothing to fear (just another set of backups, perhaps), but if that was the case why would the AFP and the ATO be so keen to collect it?

    Another thing that worries me is that this mountain of hard drives has a life expectancy of a couple of years, after which they will start to be replaced. How confident can we be that the old drives (with our logged data on them) will be carefully destroyed or wiped-clean, and not just wind up at a dump or second-hand sale, with data intact?

  4. Damian Lloveda

    Boss – great article Bernard, again! Onwards we forge to a technological dystopia.

  5. Suzanne Blake

    Labor is just trying to creat headlines and get the discussion off Carbon Tax, Leadership, Polls, Economy etc.

    They why Swans pops up and attachs Gina etc on bad Labor news days.

  6. Linda Jaivin

    On the subject of national security hysteria, this item was included in the ‘Opportunities and Competitions’ section of the newsletter of the Australian Society of Authors that came out today:
    ‘Australia’s Security Nightmares Short Story Competition
    30 September
    Prize money of $1000 for a short story to aid the national security community in imagining contemporary threats. The competition aims to produce a set of short stories that will contribute to a better conception of possible future threats and help defence, intelligence services, emergency managers, health agencies and other public, private and non-government organisations to be better prepared. The ASRC competition also aims to raise community awareness of national security challenges, and lead to better individual and community resilience. New, unpublished writers are encouraged to enter the competition.’

  7. Stevo the Working Twistie

    Even if I accept that ID Theft is a clear and present danger, can somebody please explain to me how capturing 2 years of my internet and email activity is going to protect me in any way? Seems to me the presence of such a repository would increase the risk.

    Oh, and SB? How about, just once, you actually formulate a response to the topic rather than just blurting out your standard tripe? Go on. Shock us all.

  8. lindsayb

    this legislation is just another step in our headlong rush towards authoritarian tyrannical government, and this sort of thing seems to be happening globally. Worrying.

  9. klewso

    I’m doing my bit already – I check under my bed every night before I lay me down to sleep. But I don’t get paid to it.

    [I thought misusing steroids was a “fast growing crime”?]

  10. Mark Hurd

    XKCD on “fastest-growing”:


    (Sorry first dog, XKCD does get me LOLling more often than you… )

  11. Oscar Jones

    Excellent exposure of the data proposals- crikey and Keane at their best.

    It cannot be denied that these proposals are no different than the infamous Stasi files that were kept on every citizen in East Germany. As usual “law and order” is the Trojan Horse and what policing force has never wanted more power ?. The AFP frighten me.

    It’s also a lot of hogwash about identity theft as someone who has been the victim, of numerous incidents of credit card fraud : as many happened to me in the pre-net days as now but the benefit is that it’s uncovered far quicker today.

    This reeks of ASIO’s Denis Richardson’s creepy claims post 9/11, that we must give up more freedoms to be free.

    Also the US Attorney General made similar bogus claims about a “billion ch**d p**n sites on the net” in the USA which was repeated ad finitum by the MSM which became then 50,000 new sites created every year with the magic figure repeated endlessly which begs the question : what the hell do these authorties actually do if these alleged websites are still there.

    I predict a new p*rn hysteria shortly to back up the credit fraud claims. Guaranteed.

  12. Oscar Jones

    LINDA JARVIN : anyone mad enough to enter that contest is liable to end up on a database somewhere as a suspect.

  13. Dion Giles

    Powers already lavished on the securocrats have been grossly abused in the past, as in the persecution of Dr Haneef. More to the point than giving them more power, the powers they have abused need to be struck out of their hands.

  14. klewso

    The funniest thing out of this was Ciobo “railing” against it – for the cameras?

  15. Ronson Dalby

    SB, this is one piece of legislation I guarantee the Coalition will support wholeheartedly just as they did the one passed a couple of weeks ago:


  16. a_swann

    I believe the australian pirate party are preparing a simple cheat sheet to enable internet users to browse the internet without the govt recording activity.

  17. Liamj

    @ Oscar Jones – will a sweep of online paedophilia busts do?

    Cybercrime is a worry, what with Apple providing iphone UDID’s for the FBI, Trapwire’s corp-state blurring, the spooky funding roots of Facebook & Twitter & Palantir, and now Roxon’s oppressive surveillance. It is actually not that hard to boycot the gated villages of Apple, Microsoft & Google, but what else might help?

  18. Lord Barry Bonkton

    S.B , the one trick pony.

  19. izatso?

    Bahahaha, how they be with the iPhoned FBI link ? and @Linda Jaivin anyone with anything truly smart and relevent should not be posting on these pages either, unless I just big-noting

  20. Christopher Gentle

    LINDA JARVIN – reminds me of Bruce Schneier’s annual movie-plot terrorist threat contests. Check out this one from April 1st 2007 where the objective was to instil terror _and_ get something mundane banned by the TSA as a response.

    This was my favourite: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/04/announcing_seco.html#c160276


    1984 is coming. It’s coming to an ISP near you.

    And remember how everyone cheered when Bradley Manning dumped all that data onto a Lady Gaga CD and waltzed out with it?

    Well next time, that might be your digital life history…

  22. ggm

    I think this is about TPP and not about CyberTerrorism. This is not primarily about identity theft, its about IPR theft.

    I think this is the beginning of IPR re-capture of the $cash$ which they miss, since we all started streaming content.

    I really do think this. Because, Its pretty clear that once the ISPs hold 2+ years logs on who was using which IP address, they can meet the compliance obligations of the mandatory 3 strikes process, trivially, for the IPR holders.

    BTW, today, we’re told that a significantly high percentage of *all* bittorrent sessions are being recorded, for the source IP address. ie, the content holders know who is doing the downloads already.

  23. Daemon

    As a member of and quite active in the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, I am completely confused by the lack of interest the average punter has in privacy.

    Some months ago, we held a seminar in Brisbane looking at the issue, which was addressed by the then president of Electronic Frontiers Australia, Kimberly Heitman, who posited that with the current collection of personal data by Google, we are fast approaching a position where after spending a week searching for a new set of bedsheets, we could walk into Woolworths or any other major retailer, be addressed by name by the concierge and directed to aisle 4, where there is a current special on sheets, pillow slips and bedding in general.

    Whilst at first glance that may not seem terribly important, when you add that data collection to what is being proposed by the government now, you are actually looking at a situation where not one of us has any time in our lives where we are not under the watchful eye of Big Brother, whether Big Brother provides our e-mail or is the one responsible for charging us tax.

    I don’t understand why Australian don’t care enough about their personal information being available to all and sundry, considering the amount of effort that has gone in over the years to managing and maintaining our Civil Liberties, and this issue above all others is a diminution of those liberties. It’s not enough that we don’t have a Bill of Rights or a statute of liberties, and every time somebody suggests that we should have won our wonderful government tells us “you don’t need it, your rights are protected by the Constitution”, which is held to be absolute bullshit, by any commentator asked to speak on the matter.

    I am fast coming to the opinion that the average punter is far too stupid to need a Bill of Rights, but that one should be established for the rest of us who actually utilise our brains on a daily basis, to ensure that our “beloved” governments of all ilk are held accountable for what they do to us in the name of “security”, “identity theft”, “International crime”, or any of the other range of bullshit reasons they come up with when we ask them to explain themselves.

    Roxon should be held accountable for her part in allowing the so-called “security forces” to dictate policy when in fact that policy should be driven by the politicians we pay to represent us, and the spooks and their public service colleagues should be forced to justify this outrageous impost on our civil liberties and human rights.

    I accept and understand that Roxon et al don’t have the balls to manage the Australian Federal police and their mates, but in the name of all that is democratic, we do not live in East Germany, we do not live in North Korea, we are not Chinese. We are Australian. This is our country, not theirs. They are fucking public servants. They do not run this country-much as they may try to prove the opposite. They are servants of the people who are employed to enforce the law. They are not employed to jackboot their way across our civil liberties. They need to be flogged into place and every time they raise their hands for more power they should have to justify every single millimetre of movement.

    The other thing that drives me berserk, is these morons who say “if you are doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about”. Those people should be flogged within an inch of their lives, and sent to live in North Korea for 12 months. Then when they come back, they should be flogged again and put in an immigration detention camp for the rest of their useless lives. They have no right to be part of the open community and if they have such a lack of problem with being watched 24/7 then they should be quite comfortable in their immigration detention camp. also, they should be stopped from reproducing, and if they look sideways at the object of their sexual desire, they should be flogged again and sent back to North Korea… forever, and be made to kneel in glass at the feet of the funny looking little fat guy with the weird head.

    End of diatribe …

  24. shepherdmarilyn

    And yesterday without a trace of evidence David Irvine from ASIO brings out the tired old chestnut that home grown terrorists are out to get us.

    Too bad not one person has even had a finger nail broken by these so called terrorists.

  25. Clytie

    As another commenter pointed out, ID theft increases radically with the availability of Big Data providing tasty targets with sloppy security. Would you really want to trust your life’s history to Telstra?

    Another reason credit card theft may be increasing is that precious little is done about it. Not long ago, I noticed a charge on my credit card for a luxury Emirates flight to Dubai. The bank didn’t spot it, despite their advertised “thorough” checks. I’ve never been out of the country, don’t have a current passport, have been housebound in a country town for twenty years (bar occasional trips to hospital in the city), purchase frugally and they thought an Emirates ticket to Dubai was “consistent”??

    ANZ did refund me the money, but they seemed curiously disinterested in investigating the crime (hey Roxon: identity theft!). They said it was “covered by insurance” and “happens all the time”.

    I never heard back about how the theft happened. Also, remember that news story a little while ago, that hundreds of thousands of Australians had their credit cards compromised? We never saw a follow-up story about how it happened, who was behind it or how it could be prevented in the future.

    The govt may want to run scare stories about identity theft, but the banks don’t seem to care much, and the police don’t produce any results. But we should give them lots more money and power.

  26. Owen Gary

    I wonder pre 9/11 whether this kind of legislation would have been put before us?
    Indeed that false flagged event has been the excuse for all kinds of orwellesque draconian.

    Imagine some years down the track being involved in an activist group (i.e) Greenpeace, where the authorities would like to use this type of info as a means to pick you up & question you under an act not unlike (the patriot act) & of course you are given all due legal processes which are nill under the above mentioned act.

    As for the cost of cyber crime:-”[i]n Australia identity crime is regarded as one of the fastest-growing crime areas, with Austrac estimating that in 2001-2002 it cost our country more than $1 billion”.

    I wonder how much our corrupt government (both parties) & their state accomplices are rorting out of the system via means of dud public contracts to private enterprise? I bet this would be a horror story.

    I also wonder if we started showing up in the streets & outside the halls of power, how quickly this kind of Orwellian crap would be recinded?
    I guess theres a lesson here, how much longer are going to be tapping the keyboard instead of really showing descent which is the only thing these corruptoids fear.

  27. Suzanne Blake

    Yes @ Owen Gary

    Lets take to the streets.

    That is all Gillard and Co understand.

  28. CML

    @ SM – that is a ridiculous statement. ASIO is not the only security organisation that is concerned about “home-grown terrorism”. The British have been monitoring this phenomenon far longer than we have, and they are VERY worried. They know that young men (those born in the UK, or came in as refugees when young children) are increasingly travelling to the middle-east and the sub-continent for terrorist training.
    Historically, the people in Britain have good evidence of terrorist attacks amongst this group, who have killed many people – London underground bombing, for example. There are regular programs on the BBC World Service, and in the British press, noting the threats these young religious/terrorist wingnuts pose. Are you trying to say it could not happen in Oz? Dream on!!!
    Ignoring this evidence is as bad as saying Australia didn’t have a GFC – therefore the Rudd government didn’t, and did not have to, do anything about it!!!
    As far as all this fuss about keeping data for two years – only those who have something to hide will find this onerous.

  29. Groucho

    Data retention laws won’t work. Anyone with anything to hide will use a secure connection to third party servers in other countries with encryption that won’t be able to be broken for several years or even decades long after any value can be gained from information.

    Google in the US has already been forced to hand over search records including IPs by US govt. Just that info gives the ability to expose much personal data. For example a person searching for information on HIV or alcoholism or any number of other rather sensitive information.

    We’ve seen in this country law enforcement, treasury officials, passport officers, RTA workers, police who hand out personal information for personal and political gain.

    Then there are corporations like Telstra who recently exposed 800,000 customers sensitive information to the internet. Unencrypted and unprotected.

    Secret services are unaccountable to the public. The fact is most of the secrecy surrounding them is designed to prevent them from being held accountable. When documents are released 30 years later it is usually clear their actions, far from security, are more about political ideologues interfering in democracy.

    Funnily enough it is usually those more vocal who complain about the nanny state and speed cameras that are quite willing to hand their democratic protections over without a second thought.

    Reminiscent of cultures who handed over large tracts of land for some shiny beads.

  30. botswana bob

    ASIO is doing its part to whip up alarm with its PR offensive that there are massive numbers of homegrown terrorists lurking out there. Obviously everyone’s phone/net records must be available for snooping purposes to keep Australia safe. And so it goes.
    Roxon has now cemented her reputation as cabinet’s serial dud. After being bounced from the health portfolio she has flopped as A-G. Her only noted success was trashmouthing Kevin Rudd at the February leadership challenge, presumably so she could hang onto a cabinet portfolio.

  31. Groucho


    “As far as all this fuss about keeping data for two years – only those who have something to hide will find this onerous.”

    Says the person using a pseudonym.

    I have a lot to hide and for very good reason. So do most people and it’s not because I or they are doing something wrong.

  32. shepherdmarilyn

    Paranoia is just paranoia whether it is here or in Britain

    I reckon though that Iraq and Afghanistan know a bit about terror in the night and from the skies though.

    That is us though so it is OK.

  33. Harry Rogers

    “As far as all this fuss about keeping data for two years – only those who have something to hide will find this onerous.”

    This comment is almost impossible to believe . Do these people really exist out there or are they just out of school?

    Keep up the good work Bernard as usual I’m afraid historically it is proven over and over again that the majority of the population will only complain when its at THEIR backdoor.

    Also why is that we have never had an Attorney General that hasnt turned into a “spook” once they have been appointed. Oh the damage people do in the name of security!

  34. CML

    @ SM – So the London subway bombings were just “paranoia”. I’m sure the relatives and friends of the victims will be relieved to know that!!

    @ GROUCHO – And your real name is ……

  35. fractious

    @ CML I don’t think for an instant that that’s what shepherdmarilyn was suggesting (and certainly didn’t state). What you have failed to demonstrate is how the line taken by the AFP, ATO, ASIO (and yourself) could in any way prevent events like 7/7 and 9/11 ever occurring again, and thus justifying the wholesale invasion of ordinary citizens’ rights to privacy and expression. Your “only those who have something to hide will find this onerous” cliche is identical with that uttered by numerous dictators and despots and their agents and agencies over the years, from Stalin to Mugabe to Netanyahu. And before you mouth the usual blandishments about a blameless life, bear in mind that’s what we were all brainwashed into thinking about the leading lights of our religions…

  36. Greg Jones

    Bernard, it’s another “Cracker ” mate. You have left them with nowhere to turn and nowhere to hide. At the moment it’s not too hard to imagine their red faces and empty stares, but I doubt anything resembling a conscience.


  37. AR

    To someone with a hammer, their main preoccupation is searching for nails and, should none be available, pretending that there are rilly, rilly BIG HUGE GIANORMOUS ones endangering the cardies & nylons of Mr & Mrs Pooter.
    Who will always acquiesce to any measures to avert such dread dangers, esp as said measures would never, ever be used against them.

  38. Harry Rogers

    They spent 5 million pounds in the London bombing enquiry to come up with a number of suggestions which included better first aid kits on the trains. The four lunatics who committed this tragic incident had been under surveillance by police for three years ..both eavesdropping by phone and personal surveillance.

    Remember the US has had tracking surveillance satelites over Australia for a number of years and the biggest complaint made by enforcement agencies at the ground level is the lack of staff to interpret the terabytes of data collected daily.

    Sadly I’m sorry to inform the supporters of Roxon’s team that there is abolutely NO EVIDENCE to support her assertions. As always in life there are risks and as much as we human beings try to pretend that we will be safer with new technology the only winners in this game are whats blatantly obvious to the intelligent (hello is there anybody there!)……..the US security industry.

  39. Owen Gary

    It has been documented by many that no action taken against these draconian proposals are seen as our aquiessence by the nefarious cabal.

    Yes we have agreed to much in the last 3 decades under that premise, will we even be allowed to register our thoughts againt these ba#****s in the next 3.

  40. Lisa Kunea

    Bernard, just to let you know. I was at a conference recently and to my amazement your name popped up a couple of chairs down, so I stuck my head in there and sniffed about. There were a group of people having a rather intense discussion about an assortment of different issues and one of them was national security and surveillance…I kid you not.

    It appears you are making a difference…maybe more so than you ever thought. Can’t leave Cr*key out of the equation either.

  41. fractious

    @ Daemon 5 September 2012 at 4:14 pm

    “As a member of and quite active in the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, I am completely confused by the lack of interest the average punter has in privacy.”

    Nor me neither. However, I think a significant contributory factor is, as Bernard points out, the almost** total absence of any reporting (let alone analysis and intelligent honest questioning) of this and allied issues by our fearless media, the self-same self-interested self-referencing cabal of semi-literate poltroons who howl and bay all day and all night about the manner in which the Finkelstein enquiry wanted to quash “freedom of the press” and “freedom of speech”. When was the last time any of the commercial FTA channels or Limited News or Failfax** discussed the matter in depth?

    ** except Dylan Welch at Fairfax.

  42. gautillard dellron

    i reckon this is mostly about copyright infringement, but they roll out the “zomg terr’sts” line just to frighten people into acquiescing. deep pockets those entertainment moguls, pity not enough nous to actually see an opportunity to switch up their business model and start making a buck again. meh, vpn here i come!

  43. gautillard dellron

    saw the 4 corners special on abc about the drones/surveillance state. can’t wait to hear the “oh yeah, monitoring all you communications wasn’t enough, we now have to watch you 24/7. you know, terrorists and all” line. liberty, blink and you’ll miss it.

  44. Greg Jones

    The bigger picture besides copy right and keeping an eye on all those other ” fastest growing cr imes” is the compilatio n and retentio n of data on every individual on the plane t to assess whether they qualify for citizen ship in the coming N WO or not. This is the jewel in their crown and anything else a bonus.

  45. Greg Jones

    I hear the moderator is a robot, or is that a conspi—y? Seriously lacking stamina here.

  46. john2066

    I think another problem confuisng people are the useless ‘privacy’ bureaucrats that each state has developed. These bureaucrats are nowhere to be seen in real questions as discussed in this article, but are all over the place when it comes to fiddly stupid laws and pointless ‘privacy awards’ which irritate the general public no end.

    So having these useless privacy bureaucrats gives the impression to people that strict laws are in place where in fact they are just a bunch of useless micromanaging busybodies.

  47. john2066

    Another irony touched on above: the utter indifference of banks and police to actually chasing up identity theft. When it comes to more funding and powers, and the threat in the abstract, they are all in favor of it, when it comes to them actually prosecuting people, its a very different story.

  48. shepmyster

    Nicola Roxon should resign for even contemplating these measures. The ascertion these laws are needed to protect us are simply rubbish. The CIA had all the information they needed to prevent 9/11 unfortunately the only thing they managed to do with it was to confirm their own incompetence. Thank God for Crickey, I can’t see “The Herald Sun” giving this any sort of a run, you’d have to get them out of the pub first.
    Message to Nicola Roxton, I don’t need the Gestapo looking after my interests!!!

  49. shepmyster

    If you believe these proposed changes are dangerous like I do then I suggest you contact the Prime Minister http://www.pm.gov.au/co..act.your.pm immediately and let your feelings be known. Crickey’s great but unfortunately it doesn’t decide what public opinion is, like the “Herald Sun” does. Let them know your feelings aswell, cause if you don’t we’re going to have to live with them and that is something I’d prefer not to contemplate.
    Subject: Nicola Roxton resignation “Data retention”
    Why does the Labor party seem to be so hellbent on losing my vote? Nicola Roxon should resign for even suggesting that this is something we need or want. I can’t for the life of me comprehend why anyone could see this decision as good for anyone. The CIA by their own admission had all the information they needed to prevent 9/11, unfortunately the only thing they managed to do with it was to highlight their incompetence.
    “Power corupts and absolute power corupts absolutely” these proposed changes are dangerous and no amount of placating  will change my mind on this!!! (or false claims, leave that to Abbott)
    For quite some time now I’ve been contemplating (shock horror) a vote for the Liberal Party. Abbott and Climate change are the two things that have kept me on your side of the fence but if these become law it will be the straw that broke the camels back. I can’t in all good conscience vote for a party who believe in censoring it’s citizens through fear. That’s exactly what they will produce. People to afraid to speak up because of their fear of our security services (I’m concerned right now that some idiot could perceive this e-mail as a threat).
    Message to the Prime Minister and Nicola Roxon. I don’t need the Gestapo looking after my interests.

  50. lindsayb

    @ shepmyster
    the LibLabs are “as one” in their push for new police-state type powers over citizens. Did you notice any roll-back of the draconian legislation Howard brought in when Rudd came to power?
    The only party in Australia that against it are the Greens. If you want to deliver a proverbial “kick to the n*ts” of the status quo, vote green. They really hate that!

  51. Oscar Jones

    Suzanne Blake :
    you do no-one or yourself any credit by constantly harping on that this is another “Gilliard” diversion when you damn well know the Coalition will support it.

    Robert Mclelland was a dud Attorney General and Nicola Roxon looks the same. Both have allowed ASIO & the AFP to slither away from their illegality and conspire to give them more power to abuse.

    It’s ironic that as the Australian Story on her showed Roxon’s family came here to escape fascism and yet a generation later she touts the keeping of fascist style files on us all.

  52. saugoof

    I get the impression the political debate in the last couple of decades has been reduced to :
    Step1 : Create a false panic or hysteria, it helps if there is a hint of an actual issue you can exaggerate
    Step2 : Present yourself as the only one who addresses the problem and has the solution
    Step3 : Implement some BS measure that sounds good but does little or nothing to fix the issue
    Rinse, repeat….

  53. Bohemian

    Any effort by these goons or the goons on the other side of the house to curtail our rights as human beings has to be pushed back against with full force. This is yet another ruse designed to remove a few more rights from the sleeping masses.

    If they are talking about holding the data for two years, it means they are probably using it now but are not holding it for two years.

    You will have government departments snooping around on fishing expeditions on slow days and before you know it you’ll be hauled out of your bed at four in the morning by those black Kevlar morons only to find it’s a case of mistaken identity or the wrong address.

    Go watch the movie Brazil made by Terry Gilliam in the Seventies and see how close we now are to that sort of idiocy.

    And if they have the temerity to introduce those “see everything”, cell-damaging X-Ray machines sold by the guy who used to run the Department of Homeland security – Dr. Evil, we will really be on a downward spiral into a surveillance state akin to East Germany.

    The level of knee bending sycophancy pursued by the current government toward their totalitarian-inclined mates across the water is breath-taking. No doubt all of this will be connected to that massive computer the US autocracy is using to record everything Americans do these days; just because they would like to help out their little brothers down under. lol

  54. Hamis Hill

    If it flushed out those dangerous right wing conspirators then it would probably be alright.
    After all those lefties are always in your face, nothing to hide there.
    “all that is evil fears the light”.
    If society wants to protect itself, turn the searchlights on those right wing nutters who are always scuttling about in the dark.
    The Liberal party policy committee for instance. No-one knows what they are up to.

  55. Jean W

    The concentration on an Australian government minister’s advertised wellsprings of motivation travelling true through the strata of her family’s history, rather than through her government’s realpolitik is leaving the debate here stuck in news release fairyland.
    Bernard Keane has started by pointing out the theatre, but nobody’s asking cui bono very precisely yet.
    Linda Jaivan’s pointing at the cooption of Australian institutions by the security industry – oh please don’t let’s be straightforward and call it the arms industry even though it is the same list of operators – is worth much more attention than Minister Roxon’s (or any AG’s of the past 15 or more years, or either party’s LibLab, or Green) performance. As is Marilyn Shepherd’s understanding, gained from years of dealing directly with its prime representatives in the Immigration and Police services of our wide bran land, of the unstated wellsprings of anxious, stupid, and often vicious chauvinism pulling successive government strings.

    Calling for resignations of ministers for unreconciled speeches is simply playing those departments’ game these days. As if ministers have any control of those departments. Here we all are looking at Nauru’s tent concentration camps getting dusted off again and nobody’s fingered the source of the propaganda yet.
    My favourite image is of the very relieved Philip Ruddock smiling out in the sun, wearing his Amnesty International badge without the stoop he had developed to try to cover it in his AG public appearances for the 2003 to 2007 government.

    The feds would have no problem scraping and collating all the data collected by, for example, crikey.com.au and all the other third party sites that it’s invited to help it interact with us, and to help it find out about us. Police collect evidence with warrants every day.
    But then they haven’t been interested in what most people are doing, they’re only interested in furthering their toxic world view.

    I’m not Jean W except on the www very occasionally.
    And I use a VPN tunnel whenever I’m accessing the internet because Australia’s always run a fair amount of censorship for no good reason.
    Do the feds seriously believe that criminals wouldn’t at least operate this way on the net, and with much more anticipatory organisation than I as a plain citizen can access?

    I hope Bernard Keane will be able to get access to a few Federal heads of department, and in particular one secretary, for a constructive follow-up to this essay.

  56. Les Johns

    Never other than a Labor voter, I first fell foul of the system one Saturday ‘market in the park’ where Jimboomba Labor manned a booth when an election was pending. Raguse doggedly stood for any seat until he scored a walkover in the then Federal seat of Forde after popular Kay Elson correctly sensed the winds of change and chose not to run. Raguse was approachable but it was while I exchanged idle talk with two booth workers that I became an object of ALP interest and a witness to their m.o.
    I opined how every issue of the Courier Mail presented at least three Labor-adverse articles that an active NLP war-room could pick-up, elaborate on and run with, but, I added, there never seemed to be any follow-up or interest from that camp. The words had no sooner gone with the wind when I was invited to pose in a ‘matey’ photo shoot with the chap’s wife and while I twigged to the ruse and had time to pull out, I thought what the hell, it would dawn on them that I was a harmless oldie filling in time waffling.
    Political people expect the entire voting populace to have a three-week retention limit and feel foiled when one with an adequate memory hasn’t forgotten the surveillance cameras of the ALP and their origin. The photo-happy Special Branch of the seventies openly recorded anti-war protestors as an intimidatory measure and these tactics were adopted with relish by the Labor Party.
    The Beaudesert park adjoins the 12 unit, over 55 year, Qld H.C. flat precinct where I was domiciled and where the chemistry wasn’t a happy mix. Many of the institutionalized residents feared independent thought and earned security of tenure by making regular reports to their individual ‘good friend’ in Woodridge Housing. After being instructed by a QBuild painting foreman to “Shut up you fucking poofter,” when I implored him to tone-down his sky-larking team, my ver batim reportage the next day to two young H.C. women who, by sheer chance were doing annual property inspections, brought the response,”What disgusting language to use before woman. Should be ashamed and etc.”
    Clearly, in their view, it was I who was at fault. As a mature adult, double their age, it was preferred I be contrite, wring my hands and bow and scrape. Wanting a satisfactory conclusion, I failed miserably when my detailed letter to then Minister Schwarten was responded to by his chief-of-staff’s instructions not to write his office again and a three line treatise on how to address a Minister of the Crown. My concerns about the effects of cigarette and road toxins on flat-dwellers and of the much frailer people in the nearby Wongaburra convalescent complex won me no friends.
    A deputation of women from Woodridge H.C. came to my place and insisted I make no more mention of two upwind residents who between them had four active mosquito coils burning throughout last winter presumably to aggraviate a breathing problem. After my partner’s hand-written diary became pivotal in a favourable legal decision against a faux horse trainer and her father, I started such a journal which become a series of A4 on-going notebooks. Discrepancies or tampering with hand-written journals are easily picked-up and are welcome evidence in court.
    After unmasking and disparaging two residents as possible asio planted pimps, I was visited by Qld Police who failed to pressure me into volunteering for a mental evaluation test. That this could happen to me in my lifetime, in Australia spooked me and shut me up briefly, but seeing a writer’s gulag becoming a reality, stirred my ennui and the hell with the consequences. My daily happenings carry much information and accusations against Housing and QBuild staff, car numbers and times.
    There is too much material on hand to be adequately publicised.

  57. shepmyster

    That’s what I do LINDSAYB, Labor gets my vote by default. I wish more people understood the 2 party preferred system we have. It’s the best in the world as far as I’n concerned. If punters new how powerful their vote could be, we would all be better off.

  58. Lachlan Ward

    Default voting is a terrible idea IMO. You should always vote for the best candit running in your seat, saving that they aren’t from a nut factory and you only have a choice between dead wood one and dead wood 2.

    I wonder what would happen if any time a politician, buiness leader or Journilist made an announcement, claim or statement that they then had to follow it up with evidence or suffer serious financial penalties if caught with their pants on fire.

    Or we fire all the lying bastards out of cannons into the ocean untill they learn that “winning” isn’t what counts, it’s getting things to bloody work.

    Seems more and more like the world is run by usless sophists, very frustrating.

  59. shepmyster

    Lachlan that’s simply rubbish. We all know that no matter who wins the next federal election that there will be people analysing the thing to death. I can’t see a better way to make my views known than through my vote.
    Tell me how you decide what constitutes “the best candidate”. For me it’s the person who best represents my interests. In the electorate I vote in, that person is not going to win. So am I wasting my vote if I put that person NO.1?
    My view would be no. My position is clearly defined and eventually my vote will filter through to one of the major parties (of my choosing). The effect of this will be the issues I care about will continually being given air.
    Simply voting Labor or Liberal is in my opinion a wasted vote and an acceptance that you have no say in anything at all.

  60. shepmyster

    Les Johns, I’m glad you decided not to be silent.

  61. Greg Jones

    It certainly is a demoralizing experience when we discover that all our societal icons and bastions of community belief and trust are nothing but furphies and carefully scripted psy ops and politics nothing but a Punch and Judy Show. Where to from here? Is life as we know it just one big pys op? Does this Ma trix we live in hold us so tight that we can only just breath enough to stay alive?

    Just discovered recently too, that Mahatt ma Ghan di was an MI 6 agent who was in the employ of the ill umnati to break up Indian tribal affliations and bring in democracy to the subcontinent. Millions were murdered in this grubby affair. It seems democracy and the ill uminati are inseparable.

    There is also mounting evidence that the Occ upy Move ment is a C IA psy op. Who can we trust? Where is truth?

  62. Owen Gary

    Yes Greg,

    It’s certainly a sobering experience to learn after decades of digging just what a hoax and illusion this so called democracy has been perpatrated upon us. We currently live under “Corporate Regulated Dictatorship” Remember the GM slogan (It will feed a hungry world) when in truth they are poisoning our food source & also trying to make sure it is the only food source available through (Codex Alimentarius). Back in 1980 we were already providing the capacity 0f 1.5x the food we needed, it was just the will needed to deliver it.

    Look at how the Big Pharma through the AMA has suppressed cancer cures since it’s inception in 1847 & in particular the 1920s.
    I could go on all night, but whats the point because it is even more daunting that most in society are straddling down their own path to destruction because of their appathy.

  63. green-orange

    The wall was breached in 1998 when the government decided that websites and BBSs were “broadcasting” and not “telephony”. That means that they are public areas and there is NO privacy at all.

    When the rule change was made most journalists were too enamoured of Howard, or too technically illiterate to notice,

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