Menu lock

Crikey Says

May 17, 2016

5 comments

The World’s Best Minister, Greg Hunt, wants to take away the tax-deductible charity status for any environmental organisation that doesn’t spend 25% of fundraising on planting trees or “land repair”. Organisations such as Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, the Australian Conservation Society and the Wilderness Society are under threat.

The Australian, of course, decided to ask the Minerals Council what it thought:

“But Minerals Council of Australia chief Brendan Pearson said the report ‘provides substantial evidence that a minority of groups are misusing tax-deductible donations to fund or carry out activities that are unlawful, unsafe or politically partisan’.”

Pearson was previously vice-president of government relations and corporate affairs at Peabody Energy, which has been rated extremely high on both financial management and transparency by an independent regulator. Oh wait no, that is GreenpeacePeabody filed for bankruptcy last month. The CEO of the Minerals Council is Andrew Michelmore, who came to the MCA from Oz Minerals, which turned around an overall loss in 2008 to a significant surplus in 2014. Pardon, we got that wrong — that was the Wilderness Society; Oz Minerals’ share price has dropped 60% in the past five years.

Before slamming other organisations for not fulfilling their remit, maybe the MCA should look in its own backyard …?

Media

Sep 25, 2015

5 comments

The tyranny of print deadlines. Today’s Power Issue of the AFR Magazine was compromised by the surprise ousting of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, as has been widely reported. The annual list originally designated Abbott as the most powerful person in the country, with his chief of staff Peta Credlin as the third most powerful person, and the pages were printed — but not bound — before the coup last week. The list published online today has been adjusted, as has the front page of the magazine, but the list in the magazine still has a full-page picture of Abbott as top dog. Malcolm Turnbull is now listed as the most powerful person, with his deputy Julie Bishop getting a boost from 13th to third. The magazine also features an insert with the revised list, analysing the transfer of power that went with the leadership coup.

Mumbrella‘s Tim Burrowes has slammed the decision to print the magazine with the outdated list, writing that it shows that cost factors have outweighed credibility:

“The unspoken rule used to be that if you had time to do something about it, you did, even if it was expensive. (I’ve worked on magazines that reprinted after the publisher decided a headline was too saucy; even this month we reprinted a conference brochure after spelling somebody’s name wrong.)

This time, Fairfax decided that the cost of credibility was too high. It’s the most extreme example I’ve seen to date.

Welcome to the new economics of the newspaper industry.”

This is not the first time this year the list-makers at the Fin have been caught by late-breaking news. In May, Gina Rinehart lost almost $6 billion of her wealth in a family court case days before the BRW Rich List was due to be released. She still managed to keep top position though. — Sally Whyte

Good news in the Mail. There was the sliver of good news among another gloomy trading update from the Daily Mail and General Trust in London overnight (it owns the Mail Online, the world’s most visited news website). The weak ad situation for its newspapers first mentioned in the July update has continued, but there have been signs of an improvement in the last four years as under-pressure UK supermarkets fightback with an ad blitz against super discounters Aldi and Lidl.

The company’s management said underlying ad revenues were up 5% in the last four weeks because of what are being called the UK “store wars”. But the improvement will have to step up and continue to offset another weak performance so far in the company’s financial year, which ends on September 30.

The overnight update reported that ad sales at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday remained under pressure over the summer, down 11% or 19 million pounds (or well over $40 million) in the first 11 months of its financial year to the end of August. And DMGT said a strong performance at its Mail Online arm — where ad sales jumped 16% or 9 million pounds (more than $20 million) in the year to date, was not enough offset the tough print newspaper trading.

Sales were down 4%, despite a 10 pence hike in cover price to 1.60 pounds at the Mail on Sunday in April. The falls in revenue and circulation left overall sales across the Mail business 5% lower over the first 11 months to the end of August, while at its wider DMG media division, which holds the Mail business as well as the Metro free-sheet, underlying turnover dropped 3%.

In another big development, the Mail Online has poached one of Britain’s most abrasive right-wing commentators from the Murdoch clan’s The Sun. The Guardian reports this morning that Katie Hopkins will leave The Sun at the end of this week to start at the Mail Online in November:

“The columnist, who most recently sparked outrage by comparing migrants crossing the Mediterranean to cockroaches, is believed to have been attracted by the opportunity to publish her views to a global audience. ‘I’m delighted to be joining Mail Online,’ said Hopkins, confirming the move. ‘I can now write columns that immediately respond to the news of the day. I’ve been tremendously impressed with Mail Online’s digital footprint and I look forward to adding my voice to their ever-growing audience.'”

— Glenn Dyer

Video of the day. The Australian Border Force has shared a “case study” of a greenie “radical” Karen, who seems very amused by all the attention (see story above). In that spirit, we present to you this video of “radicalised” Zoe, who, along with five other activists, scaled Shell’s Arctic drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, in the Pacific Ocean as part of a Greenpeace protest. Who knows, Zoe, with impressive feats like that, surely it won’t belong before the ABF puts your name up in lights.

Front page of the day. Mr Bergoglio goes to Washington.

Federal

Nov 25, 2014

5 comments

Jacqui Lambie’s departure from the Palmer United Party yesterday was not well received by party founder Clive Palmer, although that’s not very surprising. When she left, Lambie joined a long list of people on Palmer’s bad side.

Jacqui Lambie

On the morning of her departure from the party, Palmer suggested that Lambie had been planted in the Palmer United Party in order “to blow it up”. Clive told the ABC:

“When you start a new party like our party, the established parties and others try to wreck it … She’s been sent in there by someone to cause trouble, and I think that’s the reality of it.”

Campbell Newman

Palmer also accused the Queensland Premier of controlling the Electoral Commission in Queensland. The commission had asked for the names and addresses of the members of the Palmer United Party, as it requires all parties provide a list of at least 500 members to cross-reference with the electoral roll before they can be registered. Palmer saw the ordinary administrative task as evidence of a conspiracy:

“Isn’t it ironical that the Newman government demanded to have the names and addresses of all our members, this is supposed to be a free country that we live in and for the right to freedom of association, where government requires the names and addresses of every one of your members, is ominous for the future … We have to get these Nazis out of power.”

“We’ll give little Hitler his list and then he can then start his persecution of them, like he’s persecuted everyone else in the state.”

Peta Credlin

Members of both the Liberal and Labor parties defended the Prime Minister’s chief of staff when Palmer offered his criticism of the paid parental leave scheme. He said the scheme was “just so that the Prime Minister’s chief of staff can receive a massive benefit when she gets pregnant”.

Later, when his colleagues and the media labelled his comments as sexist and offensive, Palmer denied knowing that Credlin had been receiving IVF treatment.

Rosemary Laing

Of everyone on this list, Rosemary Laing is the least familiar, but Palmer dragged her into the spotlight earlier this year. The clerk of the Senate had advised him that an amendment he wanted to make to the carbon tax repeal could be perceived as a tax and would have to be put to the House of Representatives before it was put to the Senate. Palmer responded by calling for to be sacked or to resign. Palmer said:

“She hasn’t been elected to Parliament, she’s employed by the Parliament to draft legislation in accordance with instructions, and she can’t really refuse those instructions.”

“If that’s her job, well, she has to get out of that job.”

He also compared her actions to something that would happen in Stalinist Russia and threatened to challenge her position in the High Court.

Rupert Murdoch

Although Palmer isn’t the only public figure to take issue with the way that he’s portrayed in the Murdoch press, Palmer has been somewhat unusual in his response. The media mogul is on the list of people Palmer has threatened to sue, although that is by no means a very exclusive list. In May, Palmer called Murdoch a “gutless wonder” and followed up in August by registering the trademark “The Australasian Times”. He said he did it to give Murdoch “a bit of a kick.”

Wendi  Deng

Moments after he threatened to sue Murdoch, Palmer made the following claims against Murdoch’s then-wife on Today:

“You know, Rupert Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng is a Chinese spy! And that’s been right across the world! She’s been spying on Rupert for years, giving money back to Chinese intelligence. Read the truth about it. She was trained in southern China?”

Today host Karl Stefanovic’s face grew ever more incredulous during the interview until he finally asked the billionaire if he’d “lost the plot”. 

Greenpeace

In 2012, Palmer accused the environmental group of receiving money from the CIA to undermine Australia’s coal mining sector. According to Palmer, the CIA set up the Rockefeller Foundation in order to fund groups like Greenpeace. The link was somewhat tenuous:

“You only have to go back and read the Church Report in the 1970s and to read the reports to the US Congress which sets up the Rockefeller Foundation as a conduit of CIA funding.

“You only have to look at their secret budget which was passed by Congress last year, bigger than our whole national economy, which the CIA’s got to ensure that.

“You only have to read the reports to US Congress when the CIA reported to the President that their role was to ensure the US competitive advantage and economic advantages.

“That’s how you know it’s funded by the CIA.”

Palmer called for greater scrutiny of environmental groups and referred to a “secret budget” passed by the United States Congress.

While Greenpeace later admitted to using money from the Rockefeller Foundation to do a report called Stopping Australian Coal Export Boom, the group said that the amount of money was small.

One of the authors of the report, Drew Hutton, threatened to sue Palmer for claiming that he was collaborating with foreign nationals, including the CIA.

Kevin Rudd

During the lead-up to the 2013 election Palmer accused Rudd of deliberately stopping him from refuelling his plane in order to disrupt his campaign. Palmer was forced to wait for his plane to be refuelled after airport staff told him they needed the fuel for Rudd’s plane. Palmer promptly responded with characteristic restraint:

“It’s a sad day for democracy when the prime minister tries to use the power of government and the law to crush people in Australia and to stop people from having the right to freedom of speech.”

“You can’t have the Prime Minister and government stopping candidates from moving around the country.”

Again, Palmer expressed a desire to go to the High Court to stop this sort of attack on democracy from reoccurring.

“I’m just thinking of going to the High Court to get an injunction to stop the bastard using his power to stop other candidates, not just me, from competing in the election.”

ASIO

The first question newly minted MP Clive Palmer asked in question time was related to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. He asked the Prime Minister whether or not the parliamentary offices were bugged.

The member for Fairfax accused the intelligence agency of bugging his office and told the media he planned to check his office for bugs. Back then at least he said he refused to use the computers or phones at Parliament House because that they’re “all tapped”.

ASIO said that it didn’t have “the resources or the inclination” to conduct large-scale telecommunications surveillance. The agency also dismissed Palmer’s claims that all wealthy people were under surveillance, saying that “ASIO is not legislated to obtain intelligence on groups of people based on their financial status”.

If, indeed, Palmer is under surveillance by ASIO, you have to wonder why they bother. He says so much on the public record, how much more could he possibly have to say in private?

Tips and rumours

Jul 30, 2014

5 comments

From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

It’s a bird, it’s a plane … Plane watchers tell us that two planes known to take asylum seekers to Nauru and Manus Island have been blocked from viewing on flight-tracking website FlightAware:

“The aged Air Nauru Boeing 737 VH-INU headed back to its Brisbane base yesterday afternoon after its two trips between Cocos Island (code CCK) and Curtin Detention Centre (code DCN). This plane, with its fellow aircraft VH-NLK (Air Norfolk), has become quite well known to plane spotters at Darwin Airport while on the Christmas Island to Nauru or Manus Island camps routes pulling in at all hours of the day for a tank of fuel. According to FlightAware their flight tracker service has been blocked for these aircraft along with the famous Skytraders Airbus A319 VH-VHD.”

Crikey aviation blogger Ben Sandilands wrote two years ago about the Skytraders Airbus being blocked by its owners, and a quick check shows both VH-INU and VH-NLK are blocked from being viewed on the site by their owners. FlightAware tells us these requests are made by the owners of the planes, but couldn’t tell us if they were recent requests. The two planes in question are owned by Our Airline (formerly Air Nauru) and run commercial flights regularly. So why would two commercial planes be blocked from the site? Has the Australian government (a formidable customer, we’re sure) made the request of the airline? We put the question to Our Airline but didn’t hear back before deadline.

Telstra doesn’t quite fit the bill. Was something strange going on in Telstra’s Mobile division in the June quarter? Quite independently, several Telstra customers noticed unusual, unexplained, one-off blowouts in their mobile phone bills in the last few months — no overseas trips or obvious change in usage — leading to long arguments with the Telstra call centre and plenty of threats to go elsewhere. Here’s the rolling bar chart from three bills, all on $80 post-paid plans:

As research by Citi telco analyst Justin Diddams shows, Telstra Mobile has been massively undercut in post-paid services in recent months in a growing discount war with resurgent Optus and Vodafone. Optus and Vodafone have doubled their data allowances and are now pricing unlimited voice/text as low as $60 a month. Telstra charges $130 a month. Could it be customers are switching off Telstra already? Surely the telco giant would never window-dress its accounts, overcharging in the final quarter ahead of full-year profit results, due out in a fortnight? Telstra’s spokesperson said there had been no change in billing practices in the mobile division during the quarter and, after analysing four bills we provided, said there did not appear to be any billing inaccuracy. The charges were genuine — but Telstra would double- double-check. Competition in mobiles was always fierce, she said, and “there’s no bigger picture here … There’s no systemic issue around the increase in charges.”

Have you noticed anything fishy with your Telstra bill lately? Let us know (and you can stay anonymous).

Who’s attacking the AFP? Ms Tips noticed that the Australian Federal Police website was down for quite a while yesterday, so we put a call in to see what was going on. We got this response from an AFP spokesperson:

“The AFP can confirm that its website suffered a DDOS (Distributed denial-of-service) attack this morning (Tuesday 29 July). As a precaution, the AFP has blocked traffic access to the website while the activity is monitored.”

“The AFP takes any attack on its, or any other government website very seriously. All information on the AFP website is publically available. No sensitive information is hosted on the AFP website. The AFP website is not connected to AFP IT systems. The AFP website is not hosted by AFP ICT infrastructure.”

“These attacks are irresponsible (and will not influence government policy). Activities such as hacking, creating or propagating malicious viruses or participating in DDOS attacks are not harmless fun. They can result in serious long-term consequences for individuals, such as criminal convictions or jail time.”

The AFP didn’t fill us in on who the attackers could be, but drop us a line if you know.

Odd couples and online dating. The list of former speakers at the Sydney Institute features some of the biggest names in politics and economics, but tonight’s topic seems like another that is not to be missed. Sex therapist Bettina Arndt will speak at the institute tonight on the topic of “The Sociology of Online Dating” (according to the advertisement she is also Australia’s first online dating coach). The tagline reads “Online Dating 2014: Why, who and why not?” and Arndt will answer questions such as “where are all the men?” and “how do men behave in a buyer’s market?”. The answer we’ll be hanging out for is, of course: “How can older women come to terms with their declining market value?”. Unfortunately Ms Tips can’t attend, but if you do, you can send us tips (dating or otherwise) here.

Memepeace? Greenpeace has started a new campaign to inform Environment Minister Greg Hunt that the environmental lobby isn’t unfairly targetting the Liberal government. In a press release yesterday, Greenpeace said “Claims by Environment Minister Greg Hunt suggesting Greenpeace has has been too hard on the Liberal government can be disproved with a simple Google search”. To prove how much better they are at the internet, Greenpeace attached seven memes, all at varying levels of cringeworthiness, including this one:

Situations vacant — but are they? It was only a matter of time before some enterprising folk found ways around the government’s plan to make job seekers apply for 40 jobs a month to receive the Newstart Allowance. Even though it seems like the government is already on to job seekers who try to bump up their numbers, the Taking Applications page appeared on Facebook yesterday with the aim of giving people avenues to “apply” for more jobs. Creator and Fairfax columnist Clementine Ford told Tips: “The added bonus is that (hopefully) many of the people listing businesses will be in need of employees. It may just be for a one-off job here or there, but it’s an extra way to connect people with employment while offering them community support.”

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Australia

Oct 4, 2013

5 comments

Coal India Limited is preparing to buy assets in Australia to secure India’s coal-powered future, as it faces questions about its corporate character. Meanwhile the world’s big money banks are cheerleading for the world’s largest producer of coal.

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis finding that CIL over-stated its coal reserves to investors is just one of a litany of question marks over the company’s reputation. The Indian government-controlled company has been alleged to have ignored laws banning child labour in India, steamrolled environmental regulation and violated the constitutional rights of indigenous Indian tribes by evicting them from their land.

The IEEFA report, sponsored by Greenpeace, said that during a share float in 2010 the company used an outmoded system to exaggerate its reserves by 16%. It said the company had been overvalued by US$4.25 billion. CIL currently produces 80% of India’s coal; the IEEFA said CIL’s reserves would run out by 2030.

Greenpeace India has filed a complaint with the Indian stock exchange regulator, charging the company with deliberately concealing the true size of its reserves to drive up its share price. CIL Chairman and Managing Director S Narsing Rao denied the accusations on Indian television this week, saying the company’s figures were in line with the standard required by Indian law.

Now the Indian giant is considering buying $4 billion worth of assets in Australia. The new acquisitions would help secure coal supply for a planned expansion by CIL as India vies with China to become the heaviest user of coal power on Earth. According to the World Resources Institute, India has 455 new coal power plants in various stages of development across the country. An estimated 400 million people in India live without access to electricity.

The Guardian reported this week Australia is about to significantly increase its de facto carbon emissions on the back of an explosion of coal sales to India.

Australian thermal coal prices dropped by nearly 19% between February and August this year. The low prices prompted CIL to investigate buying two US$2 billion stakes in two Australian coal companies. CIL’s board is considering the purchase.

The sale will have to be approved by Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board. Among its conditions it states: “Companies operating in Australia and Australian companies operating overseas are expected to act in accordance with the principles set out in the OECD Guidelines.” The guidelines include the imperative to: “Contribute to the effective abolition of child labour, and take immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency.”

2010 report by HAQ Centre for Child Rights found child labourers in mines operated by CIL subsidiaries. Reports in The Guardian in 2010, The New York Times in February this year and America’s ABC as recently as June suggest that child labour is still a widespread reality in India’s domestic coal-mining industry.

The IEEFA report is part of an orchestrated campaign by Greenpeace aimed at exposing poor practice and governance within India’s coal industry. Aside from uncovering CIL’s habitual trespasses into human rights violation and environmental rule-bending, Greenpeace has an agenda to undermine the image of the carbon-emitting coal industry at large and embarrass potential investors.

The Indian government, which owns 90% of CIL, has engaged Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Bank of America and Credit Suisse to help it sell off another 5% of its holding. These big banks, along with three Indian banks, are commissioned to attract investment in the business.

A spokesman for Greenpeace said: “The big banks whose reputations are already tarnished following the 2008 banking crisis should be wary of getting into bed with Coal India, which is hiding the true nature of its reserves. This might be another opportunity for these four banks to turn a quick profit, but it is a recipe for disaster for potential investors in Coal India.”

An Australian investment sector commentator said the revelations in the IEEFA report would surprise few in the market and that dealings with Indian companies usually carry a kind of corruption caveat: “Sixteen per cent is about on par. It’s poor, but it’s a given. You assume that you are getting ripped off. The whole Indian share market has been marked down because of poor corporate governance. Deutsche would be pretty hard pressed to sell shares in Coal India unless they are at a pretty big discount.”

All four banks and CIL declined to comment.

Tips and rumours

May 17, 2013

5 comments

From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Keeping it in the family. Which man, who represents a small state or territory government in court, has “left himself open to claims of nepotism” after hiring another man who is a close relation and pal? We hear some people talking …

Half serve of Lee Lin Chin? SBS announced on Tuesday that former Channel Ten news boss Jim Carroll will replace Paul Cutler as head of news and current affairs at the multicultural broadcaster. Now there are whispers in the halls of SBS’s Artarmon HQ in Sydney that World News Australia will be shortened from 60 minutes to half an hour. Apparently the back end of the program — the sport — isn’t doing well in the ratings and Carroll is said to be a fan of shorter format. Times certainly are a-changing at SBS, with chief producer Bernard Bradney and supervising producer Sally Watson both joining Cutler in heading for the exit door.

Still the Voice. We heard a rumour that “whispering Jack” John Farnham might be unwell. Alarmed, we got straight onto long-time Farnham manager Glenn Wheatley, who assured us The Voice was “fit as a mallee bull”. Farnham is presently enjoying a safari in Africa with his family (he’s a keen photographer, Wheatley says). And keep your eyes out for a Farnham tour — described by Wheatley as “something monstrous” — next year.

For his part, Wheatley, who served time in prison for tax fraud five years ago (a period he described to Crikey as “a sojourn out of the market”), is excited about his return to regional radio on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Though he’d love to be on safari too.

Dirty tricks from Coke? You might remember this banned Greenpeace ad, which draws attention to Coca-Cola’s tireless work to sabotage the NT recycling scheme (Coke won, here’s our story on the case). It’s a great ad — watch it here — and it’s been approved by Free TV, but Channels 9, 7 and SBS have refused to air it.

Now Greenpeace reckons “to compound the media blackout, Coca-Cola has further attempted to control the debate by purchasing nearly every conceivable Google Ad Word relating to recycling and cash for containers. It seems the beverage giant has even gone so far as purchasing the search term ‘Greenpeace’.” We’ve put that claim to Coke. Anyone know how we can check it? IT sleuths, email us here

Flower power. Yesterday we brought you the scandalous tip that ABC’s The Drum had advertised an upcoming appearance from “Finance Minister Pansy Wong”. Here’s the evidence, courtesy of devoted reader Dave and with a delightful Tim Wilson backdrop:

And we heard from plenty of Tips readers who pointed out that Pansy Wong is not a figment of The Drum’s imagination — she is an ex-New Zealand MP and ex-minister for ethnic affairs, among other things. This is not the first time the media has got the two confused:

That’s a bit awkward.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Companies

Nov 15, 2012

5 comments

John West

It’s not everyday the police have to negotiate with sharks — or at least activists dressed up as sharks — but that is what has been going on outside John West’s corporate NQ, a nondescript office in Moorabin this morning.

Greenpeace is campaigning against the seafood company to move to more sustainable tuna fishing practices. And this morning we took the step of climbing on the roof of John West’s premises, complete with banner and shark costumes.

Tuna, obviously, is not necessarily the sexiest of campaign issues. I guess many of us probably have images of lonely tins at the back of the cupboard in student share houses — hardly a memory to inspire campaigning passion.

But tuna is the single largest fishery in the world and absolutely crucial to the economies of the Pacific island nations. Further, some methods of catching tuna are responsible for tens of thousands of tonnes of unnecessary killing of marine animals. The biggest problem is the use of floating gimmicks called fish aggregation devices which cause the animals to school around them, before the whole lot gets scooped up in a giant net called a purse seine. John West sells more tuna caught in this way than anyone else in Australia.

We’ve been trying to persuade John West to make the change for weeks, but they’ve not responded. Instead, they’ve been trying the rather old school style of trying to clamp down on things. On October 30, one of our billboards was removed from near John West’s head office in Melbourne. The small family-owned company, Independent Outdoor Media (IOM), which owns the billboard, cut things short following “commercial pressure”. John West’s owner Simplot is one of Australia’s largest food companies — owners of popular brands like Leggo’s and Birds Eye. It is not far-fetched to imagine Simplot throwing around its hefty media-buying weight to overpower a small media supplier.

Then there is the curious run of events on social media.

Increasingly, corporations are out there on social media. Following some unwelcome attention from people who had seen the Greenpeace campaign, John West appeared to close access to its Facebook page to people outside Australia and New Zealand. The bizarre consequence is that despite John West relying on Pacific resources to make their profits, Pacific Islanders were barred from talking to the company on social media.

The best guess is that John West might have been responding to concerns from its namesake John West in the UK (there is no legal connection between the company). John West UK has already made the shift to more sustainable tuna sourcing and would presumably not want its brand dragged down by the backward Australian company.

A little later, Greenpeace was informed by YouTube that our video spoofing John West’s new advertising campaign had been removed following a request from Simplot.

John West hasn’t responded to Greenpeace’s requests to meet or talk, nor have they responded to any media queries this past month. The point about social media, though — as the celebrated Nestle fiasco made so clear — is that futilely trying to shut things down is never the wise option for a corporate that is under fire.

Stop press: as I file this, John West has asked that the sharks come off the roof and we come in for a meeting.

Markets

Nov 12, 2012

5 comments

A coalition of international labour organisations, Greenpeace and the internet’s most senior figures has formed to warn of the threat to global internet freedom from the International Telecommunications Union, ahead of a crucial meeting in Dubai in December.

As Crikey reported in June, some hysteria has attended the prospect of the ITU revising the now-ancient International Telecommunications Regulations. But there are real concerns that the secretive ITU will reflect the agenda of both failing European telco companies, and dictatorships and kleptocracies like China and Russia eager to break the current model of internet control, via US-based non-profit organisations, most particularly ICAAN.

In August, it was revealed Russia was proposing “to establish international control over the internet using the monitoring and supervisory of the ITU”. Calls for greater international control of the internet may be welcomed by some Islamic states, after the Saudi-based Organisation for Islamic Cooperation called for an international “code of conduct” for social media.

Tonight in London, the International Trade Union Confederation headed by former ACTU president Sharan Burrow will launch a “Stop the Net Grab” campaign, backed by Greenpeace, internet founder Vint Cerf and ICAAN head Australian Paul Twomey. The group is writing to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to warn of a series of threats from the ITU meeting:

  • “Government restriction or blocking of information disseminated via the internet
  • Create a global regime of monitoring internet communications, including the demand that those who send and receive information identify themselves
  • Require that the internet only be used in a “rational” way
  • Allow governments to shut down the internet if there is the belief that it may interfere in the internal affairs of other states or that information of a ‘sensitive nature’ might be shared.”

Both the ITUC and Greenpeace are organisations normally found calling for greater government intervention and regulation. Their opposition to the ITU’s consideration of internet governance reflects the deep and rising concern that the ITU could become a vehicle for advocates of internet regulation to secure an ongoing mechanism for pressing their case, and using international fora, where diplomats are more focused on process and compromise than in protecting the rights of citizens — all in order to start a process of creeping online regulation.

The Obama administration, reflecting long-standing American efforts to keep internet governance under US oversight, has already come out strongly against efforts to extend the ITR review into the area. Australia has been more circumspect to date, but Communications Minister Stephen Conroy was blunter this morning, saying “we don’t believe the existing system needs any significant or radical change. We don’t believe a case has been made at all.”

The campaign is also highly critical of the secretiveness with which the ITU has prepared for the December conference, with the body’s governing council recently rejecting a proposal from its secretary-general to make preparatory documentation available. Instead, much of the documentation has been leaked to the wcitleaks.org site. The ITU itself is highly resistant to revealing information about its own operations.

Companies

Jul 18, 2012

5 comments

It had all the makings of yet another social media “fail” (think #cashforyou and #qantasluxury). A big corporation looking to crowdsource a marketing campaign, before everything goes horribly wrong and the whole thing turns into a PR disaster. Except this time it wasn’t true.

In a series of stunning hoaxes aimed at embarrassing petroleum giant Shell, environmentalist activists Greenpeace created an entire website and social media campaign encouraging users to “take a moment” and create a message promoting drilling in the Arctic. Greenthumbed Twitter users have deluged the site with images attacking Shell.

The website, which was launched in June, has sprung up again in recent days on Twitter, with some users and news sites believing the site to be legitimate Shell campaign. A blog on news site United Press International confessed yesterday that it had been hoaxed by the protest group.

The misguided trust is unsurprising. Greenpeace’s mock “Arctic Ready” website looks impressively authentic, complete with articles about how melting ice caps are providing opportunities to explore the Arctic Ocean.

A Twitter account has been set up to promote the campaign. The hoax has even gone so far as to pretend Shell was investigating the hacked contest.

“Shell Oil is crowdsourcing an ad campaign and hasn’t realized they’re being trolled … See it now before it’s taken down,” wrote @MylesNye.

“Shell just found out why you don’t let the internet write your ad campaign,” tweeted @jamesmasente.

Some of the most popular slogans, which are set on top of images of polar bears, icebergs and narwhales, are below:

Greenpeace, along with ad agency Yes Lab, claimed responsibility for the hoax last month, kicking things off with a “leaked” video of a Shell press conference which goes horribly wrong. That video went viral, receiving more than 750,000 views on YouTube.

“The event was a hoax, and so was the follow-up email and the website with its often hilarious-if-it-wasn’t-true fake Shell marketing copy,” they wrote on their blog.

Shell has been quick to distance itself from the campaign, releasing a statement on its website denying any involvment.

“The video does not involve Shell or any of its employees. The advertising contest is not associated with Shell, and neither is the site it’s on,” they wrote, adding that no legal action would be taken.

Crikey Says

Mar 21, 2012

5 comments

What has so enraged Clive Palmer that he would go so far as to, well, say this?

“You only have to go back to read the Church report in the 1970s and read the reports to US Congress which sets up the Rockefeller Foundation as a conduit of CIA funding.

“You only have to look at the secret budget that was passed by Congress last year, bigger than our whole national economy, that the CIA’s got to ensure that.

“You only have to read the reports to US Congress, where the CIA reported to the President (Obama), that their role was to ensure US competitive advantage and economic advantage.

“That’s how you know it was funded by the CIA.

… The Greens in the coming (Queensland) state election, all their candidates should resign if they are being funded by an off-shore political power. It’s tantamount to treason.”

That’d be this Greenpeace strategy document, leaked a fortnight ago, which raises the potential use of legal challenges to disrupt coal mining projects.

Focus on the hypocrisy of a man who once listed “litigation” as a hobby in his Who’s Who profile. A man who brags about his 68-0 success rate in court cases. As The Power Index reported recently, Palmer’s targets include everyone from Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and deputy premier Andrew Fraser, to ANZ, the Gillard government, the University of Queensland, Hyatt Hotels and the Department of Defence.

If someone could kindly connect the dots between all of these players, above and beyond commercial interests of course, and then trace it all the way to the top, we’d have a conspiracy theory on par with Palmer’s CIA plot.