From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Fact-finding missions. Far be it from Crikey, or any media outlet, to offer any advice to the AFP about tracking down a leak. But a well-informed tipster suggests one approach that we understand has been used successfully before and requires no one to trawl through anyone’s metadata. Statuary declarations are legally binding documents. Knowingly providing false information or causing false information to be placed on a stat dec is a criminal offence and could result in a possible four-year prison sentence. If a member of Parliament does that, he or she forfeits the right to hold the office of MP. So what if Malcolm Turnbull asked all current and former members of the National Security Committee and their staff to sign a stat dec stating that they did not provide or cause to be provided any information on the current defence white paper to a media outlet? Might be interesting to see who declines to do so …

Privacy body asks for answers. Earlier this year we reported that the Australian Bureau of Statistics had some interesting plans for the data it will collect in this year’s census — that is, the bureau is going to store people’s names and addresses, despite advice warning against doing so a decade ago. Now the Australian Privacy Foundation has written to the ABS saying that it was not consulted over the decision, despite being consulted when similar moves were considered in 2006.

“Despite APF’s prior involvement with ABS, we were not aware of the consultation process the report refers to, and were not notified of the process, Media Release or Report,” it says.

The letter to Australian Statistician David Kalisch also says that the APF is not aware of any NGOs, human rights or civil society organisations who were consulted or notified about the process. The letter calls the consultation process flawed and asks that the ABS release details about which stakeholders were notified of the privacy impact assessment process, and why it was conducted in-house instead of by an independent organisation.

“Concerns are also heightened because Australians remain exposed, without effective protection if anything goes wrong: there are still no laws in place for mandatory data breach notification, no requirement for subject-accessible auditing or mandatory tracing of downstream re-use or abuse of re-identified data, nor any enforceable legal right against serious invasions of privacy; and the regulator, the Privacy Commissioner, is now short-term, part-time, over-loaded and under sustained institutional attack.”

The letter was sent by the APF in February. We contacted them to ask if they had heard back from the ABS, but did not receive a response by deadline.

Clinton and ladders of opportunity. As Hillary Clinton moves closer towards securing the Democratic nomination for president, a tipster felt a sense of deja vu while reading her victory speech after Super Tuesday. On the front page of the Australian Financial Review, Clinton is quoted as saying:

“Instead of building walls, we’re going to break down barriers and build ladders of opportunity and empowerment so every American can live up to his and her potential.”

clinton ladders of opportunity

Ladder of opportunity? We’ve heard that one before, from none other than former Labor leader Mark Latham. This is most likely just a coincidence, but if someone from Clinton’s team is taking notes from Australian politics, they might want to look for inspiration in someone other than Latham.

Border Force goes hard. Since its inception, the quasi-militaristic Australian Border Force has been increasingly hardline. Now the level of aggression has even shocked Russian author and journalist Masha Gessen, who was sacked from her job after she refused to report on Vladimir Putin hang-gliding. When she arrived in Australia, Gessen tweeted:

masha gessen 1

masha gessen 2

Gessen explained what happened to The Weekly’s Charlie Pickering on Wednesday night:

“It was strange. This guy who was checking my luggage, I travel with a folding bike and I pack it with my clothes. It is clean. He saw there was dirt on the inside of my mud flap of my bike. He had a humiliation routine going. He made me read my landing card out aloud line by line. Not until I admitted that I was wrong to not declare my bicycle as a soiled thing, a thing with soil on it, he wouldn’t let me go. It was a very bizarre experience. It was clearly not the first time he had done this.”

They didn’t manage to stop people on the street and demand their papers, but the ABF got compared to Russian police anyway. What a win.

Parliament for smarties. How do you make fun of your political rivals without bringing props onto the floor of the House of Reps? Labor’s Andrew Leigh has the answer:

andrew leigh pic

Trump’s ancestors desert him. German news outlet Deutsche Welle visited the small town of Kallstadt in the Rhineland-Palatinate region — the ancestral home of Donald Trump — to find out what the locals thought of the man who is looking increasingly likely to be the Republican candidate for US president. But no one wanted to talk:

“After dozens of calls, our first impression seems to be repeatedly confirmed: The Trumps in the Palatinate region of Germany are fed up with their distant relative in the US. No one seems to be happy to comment. Everyone wants to remain anonymous.”

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW