Minister for Women's Safety Anne Ruston (Image: AAP/David Mariuz)

Thinking of the children

Pointing out that the Morrison government has made an announcement which is a re-announcement of a previous announcement is as surprising and newsworthy as the revelation that Cold Chisel pulled out “Khe Sahn” during a gig. Still, this week featured one which was particularly dispiriting. 

On Monday, Families and Social Services Minister Anne Ruston announced that, at a cost of $60 million, the Morrison government would be funding 700 new places for women and children fleeing domestic violence.

And this very welcome news was dutifully reported by the media, showing the government’s sincere concern for addressing the scourge of domestic violence.

Sort of.

See, despite the implication, that’s neither a new announcement nor new money. The initiative, including that eye-catching price point, was announced in 2019. Twice. 

The original announcement — including the price ($60 million) and the goal (to create 700 new places for women and children fleeing violence) — was made by the prime minister himself in February 2019. As in, over 18 months ago.

That announcement was itself re-announced in November, and as Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Women’s Shelter board member Elysse Morgan tweeted this week, “This money is not ‘new’. It was announced around November last year. Applications closed in February and should have been decided in May/June. Domestic violence shelters have been waiting for this money for almost a year.”

And it would be super easy to make another snide joke about a government which is all about announceables to make up for not having anything to announce, but honestly: supporting people fleeing domestic violence shouldn’t be subject to cynical manipulation for political gain when the human cost is so brutally high.

Trains in vain

Back before the 2018 South Australian election the then-opposition Liberal Party reassured nervous voters that it absolutely didn’t have any sort of privatisation agenda and that suggestions to the contrary were typical union paranoia and Labor fearmongering. Selling off the running of the state’s precious trains and trams, Steven Marshall scoffed at the time, what sort of slanderous nonsense is this?

Anyway, now that the Marshall government have sold off the running of the state’s precious trains and trams to transport giant Keolis Downer, there are concerns about just how open that tender actually was.

And, uncomfortably for the Marshall government, it’s all come to light because of increasingly regular leaks, as InDaily has reported

It has been suggested that the government was chatting to Keolis Downer about offloading boring public transport stuff long before the tender process began, giving the company what appeared to be a significant advantage.

As part of the Adelaide Next consortium’s failed attempt to secure the contract, Bombardier Transportation president Wendy McMillan had contacted the project’s probity officer with advisers BDO Australia regarding the government’s seemingly cozy arrangement with Keolis Downer, and received a reply (in more leaked correspondence) from the Adelaide Rail Transformation Program head Fergus Gammie confirming “that it is highly likely that one or more other investigations will be conducted”.

And yet, despite seemingly confirming that the process did appear to need a serious look-see, Keolis Downer was announced as the successful bidder weeks later. Ah, the system works!

The government refused to confirm or deny that there were any investigations, current or concluded, into the matter. Mind you, Bombardier and all the other unsuccessful bidders got a million dollar consolation prize (also revealed via a leak and then grudgingly confirmed by the government) so who’s complaining? 

So, a multimillion dollar contract with a private company, seven figure payouts to the losers, and the government launched several investigations as a result. Man, the savings created by outsourcing trams and trains from the public service must be incredible if it can fund all that!

Security goes out the window

It’s almost admirable, the way that message board for dickheads turned global conspiracy network 4chan has really stepped up as the single worst thing the internet ever spawned.

Heck, going from badly photoshopped nudes of Lara Croft to destabilising established democracies with violently racist propaganda? Why, that’s the very epitome of “disruption”! 

Anyway, posters on the site have now released the source code for Microsoft’s Windows XP as part of their conspiratorial campaign against Bill Gates for all the nutty QAnon reasons you either already know about or honestly don’t need to bother with.

And while the nearly 20-year-old code sadly doesn’t reveal Gates’ part in an implausible global child trafficking network (or even that he’s a blood-drinking lizard), it does have a few rather negative consequences for the real world.

Hackers are now scouring the code for vulnerabilities, which is a problem because, amazingly enough, Windows XP is still used in a bunch of very important systems. Some, like hospitals, use it because certain state governments have penny-pinched on things like IT upgrades for the health sector. Others, like ATMs, are machines which are often 20-odd years old themselves and would struggle to operate on newer code.

In any case, it turns out that Windows XP underpins a lot of the systems our society relies upon and so how are we not all dead already?

So don’t fret you folks on JobSeeker/Keeper. Sure, you might now be struggling to make ends meet due to punitive payment cuts and the return of onerous compliance requirements, but a bit of code juggling and you’ll be able to pull off that cool ATM cash-hack from Terminator 2: Judgment Day! Probably!

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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