MEDICARE BREACH FALLOUT
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge has downplayed yesterday’s revelation in the The Guardian that a darknet trader is illegally selling Medicare numbers on a popular auction website, calling it “traditional criminal activity” rather than the work of sophisticated hackers and insisting that Australians’ private and sensitive information was safe.
“Nobody’s health records can be accessed just with a Medicare card number,” he said. Tudge has confirmed that neither he nor his office was aware of the matter, which has now been referred to Australian Federal Police, until they were contacted by The Guardian. The Age reports on the concerns the issue raises about centralised storage of private information, quoting the Australian Privacy Foundation’s David Vaile as saying the government has “drunk the big data Kool Aid … They seem to have set aside concerns about security, privacy, confidentiality and access controls.”
RBA KEEPS CASH RATE STEADY
The Reserve bank of Australia has left the overnight cash rate steady at 1.5% for a 10th straight meeting, in a move likely to disappoint some analysts who believed the RBA should have been more hawkish towards interest rates. In a statement issued yesterday, RBA head Philip Lowe cited “subdued” wage growth and low inflation world wide as factors in the decision.
TURNBULL TO CRACK THE WHIP ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull plans to use his upcoming trip the G20 summit in Hamburg to urge world leaders — particularly Donald Trump — to place more pressure on encrypted messaging services to allow governments access to their information. Turnbull told Fairfax of his frustration with tech companies refusing to decode their systems, even when they pertained to terrorism investigations. “We are in a position now where increasingly police and security agencies can intercept telecommunications, but they cannot read them,” he said. “You have got a very real global threat where terrorist organisations, Islamist terrorist organisations, are using these digital platforms to do us harm.”
The focus could be widened to other social media platforms like Facebook, with “senior government officials” telling The Australian the Prime Minister would argue that if internet giants refused to willingly co-operate with intelligence agencies, there should be “co-ordinated effort by Western powers” to impose obligations upon them.
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WHAT’S ON TODAY
Brisbane: Former Coalition government resources minister Ian Macfarlane, who now heads the Queensland Resource Council, will deliver a luncheon address to the Queensland Media Club.
Canberra: ATO commissioner Chris Jordan will give a speech to the National Press Council about former deputy commissioner Michael Cranston, fraud, computer systems/outages
Turnbull faces decisive test on energy policy — Paul Kelly (The Australian $): “Abbott told this column yesterday: “This issue is the best hope for the government to win the next election.” For Abbott, upon this electoral conviction, upon this rock, the fortunes of the Turnbull government will either be built or smashed. He sees the energy crisis not so much as a problem but as a political opportunity to save the government.”
“Delcons” would rather Australia failed than Turnbull succeeded — Miranda Devine (The Daily Telegraph $): “Conservatives who actually care about policy and not personalities, should go easy on Turnbull, who is walking a fine line between an electorate full of small l liberals and a party that has to appeal to two Australias.”
Tough rules on unions have stifled Australian wages — Josh Bornstein (The Age): “First, the laws have been deregulated to encourage employers to cut wages and de-unionise their workplaces. At the same time, unions have been subjected to complex regulation that restricts their ability to access workplaces, recruit members and to bargain for better wages and conditions.”
NORTH KOREA CLAIMS ICBM TEST
North Korea says it has successfully tested an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of striking the US. While it has not been confirmed whether that is true, experts said the flight course of the test missile indicated the weapon could reach Alaska, though not the US mainland.
North Korea also says it has developed and tested the “re-entry” technology that allows a nuclear payload to be attached to such a missile. Again, analysts are treating the claim with caution.
In response to the launch, US President Donald Trump sent a series of tweets, with one presumably referring to Kim Jong-un asking: “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” China and Russia issued a joint statement calling the launch unacceptable and asking North Korea to freeze its program.
Austria has put troops on standby and said it is prepared to use tanks to stop migrants crossing its border from Italy. Austrian Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil made the assertion as European states demanded NGOs carrying out rescue operations in the Mediterranean sign up to a code of conduct. UN officials have hit back, accusing commercial vessels and NATO ships of refusing to abide by obligations to rescue shipwrecked migrants. — The Guardian
In a gesture of defiance, Qatar has announced it will increase its Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) production, as its rivals meet to discuss the ongoing embargo on the Gulf state. The news could impact Australia, a major LNG exporter competing in an already glutted market. — Reuters
WHAT WE’RE READING
How much can one strongman change a country? (The Atlantic): “Erdogan’s steamrolling of both internal and external opposition raises a set of intriguing, if difficult, questions about the role of great men in politics. How much can one man matter in a nation with rich history and traditions and (relatively) strong institutions?”
Chronicles of a concerned Venezuelan (Global Voices): “I stumble around the dark apartment. Another blast goes off. It’s almost 11pm. I make my way carefully with outstretched hands, listening to the sound of pots banging, the clack of tear gas guns discharging. In Venezuela the days don’t ever seem to come to a complete end. Violence remains, continues, spreads. Normal means a collection of pains and terrors. Of closed doors and a general state of suspicion.”
Why Roman concrete still stands strong while modern version decays (The Guardian): “These minerals, say the authors, helped to reinforce the concrete, preventing cracks from growing, with structures becoming stronger over time as the minerals grew. By contrast, modern concrete, based on Portland cement, is not supposed to change after it hardens – meaning any reactions with the material cause damage.”
Tumblr’s unclear future shows that there’s no money in internet culture (New York Magazine): “The truth is that running a platform for culture creation is, increasingly, a charity operation undertaken by larger companies. Servers are expensive, and advertisers would rather just throw money at Facebook than take a chance on your weird, problematic network. Generating and incubating internet culture has little market value in and of itself.”
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