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Who cares about metadata? There are bigger problems.

John Richardson writes: Re. “IGIS, media flag concerns about national security reforms” (Friday). While Bernard Keane has every right to highlight media concerns about the implications of the government’s proposed expansion of national security powers, the average citizen should be far more concerned about the issues raised by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Dr Vivienne Thom, and their potential impact on them.

The proposal to confer a right on foreign intelligence services (“ASIO affiliates”) to engage in surveillance activities against Australians should, of itself, be sufficient reason to require any such activities to be subject to the issuance of a warrant by an Australian court of law, at a minimum.

The proposed amendments that would allow ASIO officers to break the law as part of a “covert operation” and ban anyone from revealing any information about such operations are extraordinary and would effectively place ASIO above and beyond the rule of law, including parliamentary oversight.

It is worthwhile considering that had the latter provision been in place when ASIO “bugged” the cabinet deliberations of the government of East Timor in Dili (so as to assist the Australian government’s obscene effort to defraud the people of East Timor from their rightful share of Timor Gap oil and gas revenues), Australians would never have known about the criminal behaviour of their own government.

That Australians would allow themselves to be so easily distracted by pointless argument about the meaning of terms such as “metadata” while their sovereignty is being traded away like cold fish and chips on a Saturday night by unaccountable bureaucrats and incompetent politicians is the real story.

The budget emergency is very real

Philip Argy writes: Re. “Woe is Joe: or, how the budget narrative was lost” (Friday). Thank you for at least quoting Hockey’s comment in context. It’s a shame most of your colleagues haven’t done that.

By the way, when are you going to highlight that taxpayers are now paying $44 million per day in interest alone on Labor’s debt, before we pay one cent off the principal debt? Imagine what Hockey could do with that cash.  That’s the real context people need for the budget stringency! And the gall of Labor to sabotage the economy and then pretend that the problems are of Hockey’s making — it’s criminal really, and none of the fourth estate is calling them out on it. That’s a budget emergency we have to fix. It’s not that Australia can’t service that debt, as Labor disingenuously retorts when they are criticised — it’s the opportunity cost of that $44 million day after day that could be spent on all the things the budget had to cut. Crikey!

Steven Petrenko writes: While the Treasurer’s train wreck continues to drag its shattered carriages along this budget slow track, I for one would like to see a Crikey readers’ survey competition to find a new ministerial portfolio more suited to Joe Hockey’s brand of pointed and impassioned appeals to the public. I’ll start the ball rolling with “Minister for the Grim Reality of Life”.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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