Friday 22nd of January 2021

former robocop now in charge of robolaws to decide your freedom to know nothing ...


A directive from Attorney-General Christian Porter is being regarded as a move by the LNP to control freedom of press, writes William Olson.

AUSTRALIAN GREENS SENATOR Sarah Hanson-Young has called for greater press freedom protections for journalists and whistleblowers, amid Attorney-General Christian Porter’s office declaring that journalists at News Corp and the ABC – who were raided by the Australian Federal Police last June – will not be charged without Porter’s approval.

Hanson-Young, the Greens’ Minister for Communications, has also characterised the ongoing Senate inquiry into press freedom as “going nowhere” on Monday.

In a directive signed and dated 19 September, Porter ruled that News Corp investigative journalist Annika Smethurst, ABC Sydney-based reporters Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, along with whistleblowers aiding both news organisations, would not be facing charges over their reporting of stories deemed sensitive to national security matters, instructing the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution not to charge them without his formal approval under sections of secrecy laws.


The vague long-term nature of Porter’s decree lends credence to Hanson-Young’s assessment of the Senate inquiry which she happens to be chairing.

Hanson-Young insists that a greater degree of objectivity and transparency must be applied in the name of press freedom:

Freedom of the press and protection for whistleblowers should not be at the whim of the government of the day.


What we need is legislated safeguards to guarantee the freedom of the press and whistleblower protections. These protections must be independent of the Government.


The Senate inquiry into press freedoms will take a close look at this so-called directive. It’s clear the Government’s inquiry, where it investigates its own attack on the freedom of the press, is going nowhere.



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the potato blight...

“They keep turning up week after week because a slap on the wrist is just not working.”

Mr Dutton also called for mandatory sentencing of protesters disrupting traffic and shutting down cities.

“If there needs to be mandatory sentences … the state government can pass laws that do reflect community standards and, at the moment, they don’t,” Mr Dutton said.

“If the courts are not going to impose a penalty again it comes back to the (judicial) appointments by the Queensland government. There are some good magistrates and judges.

“But you know raiding farms, climbing on to the roof of my electoral office and then get told by the magistrate he would be proud of her if it his daughter had done it.

“We should push back on it because these people are a scourge.”


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The real scourge is people like Dutton (potato man), Porter (robocop) and Morrison (scummo)— people who have no interest in what the sciences are telling us. We need dissent to shake the cobwebs...

what about calling it the debt-nazi?...

The Coalition’s controversial debt recovery scheme should not be called robodebt, Liberal MPs say, in part because the phrase is causing anxiety in the community.

A day after the Liberal senator Matt O’Sullivan told the first hearing of a Senate inquiry into the scheme “robodebt” was a “misnomer”, his colleague, Hollie Hughes, admonished representatives from Western Australia’s community legal centres for using the term.

Hughes also told the inquiry on Friday the term robodebt was “a bit of a misnomer, particularly under the current system”.

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let's call the system: Arbitrary Debt Repo Arm-Twisting Nut-Crunching Automated Device, Koffup or Robot-Waffen...

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national security improvements by freedom of the press...

“Nobody has demonstrated how those stories undermined national security,” says Peter Greste. “You could make the case that they improved it.”

The former Al Jazeera journalist, now professor at the University of Queensland, is referring to The Afghan Files – a series of articles published by ABC journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark in 2017, which levelled accusations that Australian troops committed war crimes while serving in Afghanistan. For their reporting, Oakes and Clark relied on secret documents allegedly leaked to them by military lawyer David McBride.

Greste has worked in Afghanistan. He knows of its effective bush telegraph, which he says would have communicated the ways Australia’s special forces were behaving. “That would have made Australians very vulnerable to retaliation,” he says. “We undermine national security by going outside the rules of war, and we improve it by keeping government accountable.”

In recent months, with his UQ colleague Richard Murray, Greste has been undertaking qualitative research with more than 20 senior investigative journalists, editors and newsroom lawyers, looking at their ability to perform their fourth-estate roles. He has observed the marked impact of national security legislation and the Australian Federal Police raids on News Corp and ABC journalists, including Oakes and Clark, on journalism in Australia.

Greste says provisional findings of the ongoing study suggest senior journalists’ sources are drying up as they find it increasingly difficult to protect their sources and to guarantee their sources’ anonymity. “The data retention legislation, the espionage legislation, the encryption legislation and now the raids – it’s all been very damaging,” says Greste.

Legal and media experts say recent directives by Attorney-General Christian Porter and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton are unlikely to warm the chilling effect that Australia’s unique and draconian national security laws and the AFP raids are having on public-interest journalism.


It emerged this week that Porter instructed Commonwealth prosecutors on September 19 to seek his formal approval before charging any journalists with certain crimes. The news follows a directive Dutton issued to the AFP in August, telling it to “take into account the importance of a free and open press” before undertaking investigative action involving journalists.

The AFP began an investigation into The Afghan Files leak and, in September 2018, McBride was charged, unexpectedly, with theft; he has since been committed to stand trial on that and two other charges. The warrant executed by the AFP in June authorised the agency to search for evidence to build its case against McBride, but also against Oakes – for, the warrant said, “unlawfully obtaining military information” and for receiving stolen Commonwealth property.

Unlike the new secrecy laws introduced in 2018, the receiving charge does not allow a defence for journalists reporting in the public interest. But in June, Porter declared he would be “seriously disinclined” to authorise the prosecution of journalists for doing their jobs; that disinclination is reinforced by his September directive, which specifically nominates the two offences for which the AFP was considering prosecuting Oakes.

Former Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes, a member of ABC Alumni, which represents almost 300 former staff and other supporters of the national broadcaster, says the attorney-general’s decision is a positive one for the reporting team behind The Afghan Files.

“I would definitely be taking some comfort from [Porter’s directive] if I were Dan Oakes,” he says. “It’s absolutely gobsmacking that a journalist could conceivably be charged with receiving stolen property as the result of receiving leaked information.”

Oakes, Clark and News Corp’s Annika Smethurst – the other journalist raided in June – appear safe for as long as Porter, or whoever eventually succeeds him as attorney-general, refuses to authorise their prosecution.

But experts say the effects of these raids, and of the extraordinary stream of legislation being ushered through parliament, are much broader. “The real targets of the June raids weren’t the journalists,” suggests Dr Rebecca Ananian-Welsh, senior lecturer at UQ and an expert on national security legislation, “though if journalists are prosecuted, that will have a chilling effect. But the real targets were the leaks themselves.”

During a hearing in September, the ABC’s manager of editorial policy, Mark Maley, told the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security: “Anecdotally, there are reams of examples from within the ABC alone … of sources saying, ‘It’s just too dangerous’ … There are stories that are not being told, because whistleblowers are afraid. They’re afraid not just of losing their job, but of losing their liberty.” For talking to journalists without authorisation from their departments, government employees face maximum prison terms of 10 years – and even longer for some charges.

Maley told the committee he has also observed a “chilling effect” on investigative journalism in the past two to three years. “People feel as though they’re being surveilled and are at the risk of criminal sanctions; and having to defend criminal actions is genuinely chilling and distressing for people who see themselves as ordinary reporters and feel as though they’re doing good daily work,” he said.

Many experts now accept that much of the Howard-era national security legislation was arguably necessary to catch Australia up to other democracies. “We had no laws dealing with counterterrorism in 2001, compared with Britain, which had a long history,” says Professor George Williams, the dean of law at the University of New South Wales and a leading expert in constitutional law. “But we’re well past that now.”

Williams began counting the number of new security laws Australia’s parliament was making from 2002. His UNSW Law School colleague Dr Nicola McGarrity has continued the count. After a slower rate in 2007-2013, during the Rudd and Gillard governments, Dr McGarrity says an acceleration began when Islamic State declared its worldwide caliphate in mid-2014. “Australia has gotten a new piece of national security legislation, on average, about once every 13 weeks since then,” she says. The count is now at 82, with another five bills currently before parliament.

It has been a crime for Commonwealth employees to leak secret information to journalists since the first months of World War I in 1914. But as long as journalists protected their sources and whistleblowers were careful, government secrets could be divulged in the public interest without much fear that leakers would be identified. When public servant Desmond Kelly was charged with leaking a Howard government plan to clamp down on war veterans’ entitlements, Herald Sun journalists Michael Harvey and Gerard McManus famously refused to name their source at Kelly’s pre-trial hearing. They were convicted of contempt of court, but they kept their source’s confidence.

Protecting sources became much more difficult following the passage of data retention laws in 2015 – laws the Commonwealth Ombudsman later found were being almost routinely breached by police without consequence. New laws allowing agencies to get through encryption technologies – including by co-opting telcos, getting around passwords and installing spyware – were rushed through in the final sitting week of 2018. Six months earlier, laws broadening protections for government secrets and increasing penalties for whistleblowers were passed.

Since the AFP raids in June this year, Labor has suggested a conspiracy between the Morrison government and the federal police, which both deny. But there is a far more straightforward explanation for the raids – Labor voted for the laws that not only authorised them but probably required them. “It’s the job of the authorities to enforce these laws,” says George Williams. “It would be more surprising if they didn’t use them.”

Williams, who ran for Labor preselection in 2007 and 2010, says he is “not aware of Labor ever voting against one of these measures.

“Many have gone through parliament with lightning speed, often facilitated by the opposition declaring, upfront, that they will vote for legislation – sometimes even before seeing its detail.”

Bill Shorten repeatedly declared Labor was “in lockstep with the government on national security” during his time as opposition leader.

“There would be times when Labor would have liked to oppose some of these laws,” says Williams, “but felt politically unable to. The question is, where will this end?”

Imprisoned for more than a year in Egypt while he was working for Al Jazeera, Peter Greste – who is also a spokesperson for the Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom – knows about the consequences of an unfree press. “I’m not suggesting we’re about to become Egypt,” he says. “But the political imperatives [behind the Egyptian laws] are the same as those driving the national security legislation here.”

On The Afghan Files case, he is resolute. “We must accept those journalists were performing their duties in a democracy,” he says. “Any law that criminalises that kind of journalism is a flawed law, because that’s the kind of journalism our democracy needs.”


This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 5, 2019 as "Laws of detraction". Subscribe here.


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freedom for some, while assange is illegally in prison...


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has demonstrated his contempt for our democratic freedoms on many occasions. Most recently, by snubbing the UN Climate Change Summit, before summarily dismissing the most significant display of freedom of assembly of our era, in which 300,000 Australians took to our streets protesting climate inaction.

Morrison could hardly disguise his derision, as he insisted Australia’s response to global warming was just fine and declared that climate protests were causing “needless anxiety” in children.

Democratic freedoms, as far as the openly Pentecostal PM is concerned, only refer to so-called “religious freedoms”. The most recent manifestation of this commitment to “freedom” involves the establishment of religious freedom legislation — which seeks to give special rights to those who refer to themselves as religious to say whatever they like to whomever they like, while not extending the same “freedom" of speech to their non-denominational counterparts.


Meanwhile, that beacon of the “freedom of speech” brigade, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, now wants to cancel welfare payments for anyone exercising such freedoms by protesting climate inaction. Dutton has called for mandatory gaol terms, as well as urging others to “name and shame” protesters on Newstart. Senator Michaelia Cash, unsurprisingly, supported this view.


And now, Member for Goldstein Tim Wilson explains, for all our ignorant benefit, the difference between “good” protests and “bad” protests.

In 2016, when his Government subjected LGBTI people to a same-sex marriage plebiscite, Wilson cried, with dramatic effect, but backed it anyway. Today – fresh from enjoying the LGBTI community’s campaigning while he toed the party line on marriage equality – Wilson is now practically a rebel.

Suddenly, so interested in the democratic right of free speech is Wilson, that he went to the Hong Kong protests and “joined in” with pro-democracy activists — along the way ensuring to take plenty of selfies for his social media campaign.


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Meanwhile in the animal world:



and the ATO whistleblower...

Australian Taxation Office (ATO) whistleblower Richard Boyle says the tax ombudsman failed to do a proper review of the tax office regarding allegations of improper use of debt-collection powers.

Key points:
  • Former ATO public servant Richard Boyle faces the prospect of life in prison for blowing the whistle on the ATO
  • Mr Boyle's submission to a federal inquiry claims the tax watchdog, the Inspector-General of Taxation, failed to offer "independent, open and transparent analysis" of his case
  • Other submissions to the inquiry say the tax ombudsman needs better resourcing to help small businesses and, some suggest, oversight of the watchdog itself


In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry looking at whether the tax ombudsman, the Inspector General of Taxation (IGT), properly fulfils its role, Mr Boyle claims the ombudsman's review of the ATO's debt-collection practices was botched.

number of other submissions lodged last month have called on the Federal Government to give the tax watchdog more powers to protect whistleblowers and keep proper watch over the ATO.

The allegations from Mr Boyle regarding the ATO cash grab and improper use of its powers against taxpayers were first aired in a joint Fairfax/ABC Four Corners report.

The ATO former debt-collection officer, who now faces the prospect of life in prison for blowing the whistle on the ATO and is yet to go to trial, revealed in that investigation a directive issued to ATO Adelaide office staff in June 2017.

This directive asked staff to issue a "standard garnishee notice" on all taxpayers and bank accounts, which required the bank to keep sending money to the ATO on an ongoing basis, whenever money was deposited in the account.

Following the media investigation, the tax ombudsman concluded in a review of the ATO's use of garnishee notices that there was no cash grab, but did find the ATO did not always use its garnishee powers "proportionately and appropriately".


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more censorship...

A Berlin-based journalist who was due to speak at a press freedom conference in Brisbane has said she was denied a visa by the Australian government because they believed she might try to stay.

Mimi Mefo, an award-winning Cameroonian journalist who currently works for Deutsche Welle, was scheduled to deliver a keynote address at the Integrity 20 conference on Friday.

However, last week her visa was refused because immigration authorities “were not satisfied that the applicant’s employment and financial situation provide an incentive to return”, Integrity 20 said.

Mefo, who won the 2019 Index on Censorship freedom of expression award for journalism, was due to travel on from Australia to South Africa to deliver a lecture at the African investigative journalism conference.


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What is the government afraid of? Oh I know... THE TRUTH!

the view from beirut...


The Australian press redacted its "front pages" and resorted to televised announcements to protest the enforcement of the law on censorship.

Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have adopted highly restrictive legislation aimed at protecting state secrets.

Government censorship in never discussed in these countries, and for good reason; nevertheless, it is very widespread.

Three journalists are being prosecuted for revealing that : 

- the government intended to use the interception capabilities available to the "Five Eyes" (the four above-mentioned countries plus the United States) to spy on Australian citizens. 

- Australian special forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.


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the liars are moving the goal posts...

A question for students of bad bits of history has always been: how did people let such a thing happen? How was it that things were able to deteriorate in the way they did without the public expressing their alarm or objection?

It feels like we are getting a very real answer to that question in the way the world is moving at present.

It's about the power of relentlessness and the creeping tide of incremental shocks.

World events may often be seen now through the prism of Donald Trump's unique grasp on the concept of government, or the perplexing, apparent immolation of any sense of self-interest in the British public as the Brexit train wreck continues.

Donald Trump's latest outrage — on a day-to-day basis — is dismissed as "Trump being Trump".

Those in the political machine in Washington who are appalled at what he is doing continue to persuade themselves that Trump is an aberration and that the proper order will return when he is gone.

In Britain, there have been signs of the occasional parliamentary pulse in resisting Boris Johnson's relentless determination to get Britain out of the EU, even if the cost may be the eventual unravelling of the UK itself.

But the underlying assumption is that the Prime Minister will eventually get his way because of the sheer weariness of a public that just wants it all to stop.

So Trump is an aberration, Brexit a victory for relentlessness.

Both these characterisations imply that their time on the stage will not alter the underlying order. Yet such episodes have a profound effect on what is regarded as acceptable or even normal.

Our very own examples

The trashing of institutions, and the existing order, are seen as almost accidental fallout when in fact they lie at the heart of what these political outsiders pursue. 

And it is a trashing without any coherent order or philosophy behind it, or even any links to the traditional positions of the political parties these leaders purport to represent.

In Australia we have our own version of this phenomenon of relentlessness and incremental shifting of the goal posts, most notably in the way leadership challenges play out.

But a seemingly relentless deterioration in our politicians' belief in the need to be accountable seems to have only accelerated as more and more voters switch off from politics.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor has always been regarded as an MP to watch. Smart. A powerful advocate. Not exactly lacking in self-belief.

But we now seem to be watching him, all the time, for all the wrong reasons.

Taylor is now — or at least should be — under intense pressure over The Guardian's story about his attack on City of Sydney Mayor Clover Moore.

The Minister wrote a very political letter to Moore after she had written to the Federal Government criticising its climate policy.

"You might be interested to know that there are many practical ways local councils can take real and meaningful action to reduce their carbon emissions," he parried.

"One way is to limit unnecessary air travel."

The crucial bits of this story relate to what came next. Taylor claimed in the letter that the Council's annual report showed an astronomical $15 million travel budget in just one year.

His letter was then leaked to the Daily Telegraph, even before it had been received by Moore.

Taylor obstinately refused to explain what had happened, or even apologise if it was a mistake that he had accidentally got the numbers wrong.

He went even further, attacking Moore for perpetrating a "conspiracy theory" — before releasing a statement late on Friday saying he would apologise to Moore for "not clarifying those numbers with the City of Sydney before writing to her".

He insisted the figures had come straight from the Council's website, even though documents that subsequently emerged clearly suggest that someone had doctored documents sent to the Daily Telegraph by the minister's office in support of his claims in the letter.

When challenged repeatedly about this latest controversy on Thursday, he rather bizarrely said he didn't "accept the premise" of the question.

There is no evidence that Taylor himself doctored the document.

But Labor is pointing out that the use of such forged documents raises questions about a possible breach of the criminal law in NSW.

We can't afford to look away

The point of all this isn't just about who did what and when, but about the utter contempt Taylor has shown for any accountability for his actions.

There has not been even the slightest suggestion that he might be concerned that he may have falsely accused a public figure, using incorrect information, or that he might investigate how that had happened.

And there were no signals from the Prime Minister that he would pursue the matter with his minister.

Scott Morrison has a history of a cavalier lack of regard for accountability, variously dismissing questions about policy areas for which he is responsible as "on water matters", as things only of interest to the "Canberra bubble" or "rumours". 

They are positions only marginally different to Trump's "fake news".

Labor is pointing to similarities with the Utegate episode in 2009, when Malcolm Turnbull's leadership of the opposition became terminal after he seized on what turned out to be forged emails concerning then prime minister Kevin Rudd.

The comparison highlights how the goal posts of accountability have moved even just in the past 10 years.

A sporting chance

And in an another, almost eerie parallel with an earlier political scandal — the so-called White Board or sports rorts affair that cost Labor minister Ros Kelly her job — it emerged late on Thursday that hundreds of applications for sports facilities were recommended for funding by Sport Australia, but rejected by then-sports minister Bridget McKenzie in the lead up to this year's election.

McKenzie used her ministerial power to choose the clubs and councils she felt deserved a slice of more than $100 million in funding, including more than $25 million for her home state.

McKenzie, the deputy Nationals leader and now Agriculture Minister, was approached by ABC reporter Jack Snape for comment.

Her office said they were not in a position to comment because they did not keep records, and directed the ABC to the new Sport Minister, Richard Colbeck.

Part of the new cavalier approach to accountability must be based in the view that the public isn't watching, and isn't interested, a self-perpetuating position thanks to the depressing spectre of politics.

The media, or at least parts of it, might be watching. 

But that apparently holds no concerns for the Government either, as Scott Morrison made clear in his response to the media "right to know" campaign earlier this week.

It may be depressing. But no-one can afford to look away.

Laura Tingle is 7.30's chief political correspondent.



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Meaanwhile see also:

finding our lost marbles... in Sociology versus religionism in democracy…

silencing the media...


It’s #YourRightToKnow. There are many ways to silence the media: persecution of whistleblowers, defamation threats, contempt of court claims, lobbying of media bosses by powerful interests, injurious falsehood claims, the government’s draconian secrecy laws and police raids on journalists.  MICHAEL WEST reports on the latest abuse against free speech.

This week we can unveil yet another threat to freedom of speech: the Personal Safety Intervention Order (PSIO), a court order that is intended to help victims of domestic violence but instead is being abused as a tool to harass journalists, namely Sandi Keane, editor of

Known as restraining orders or apprehended violence orders in other states, the PSIO in Victoria is now being used by those who wish to both annoy people and avoid the media spotlight.

The PSIO works like a combination of a suppression order and an injunction. It costs nothing for the applicant but thousands of dollars to fight and remove. And it has the added bonus for the applicant of having one’s history wiped from all electronic media from the date of the summons.

Victoria is already the “gag order” capital of Australia, its courts awarding suppression orders far in excess of all other states. On top of this rampant granting of injunctions to stop media reporting on critical public interest cases such as the George Pell proceedings, PSIOs are on the rise.

In 2008-09, the number of PSIO applications was 7333. The latest figures, for 2017-18, show a staggering increase with 27,606 listings.

There have been some reports about the abuse of PSIOs in Victoria by those seeking malicious revenge. Keane is believed to be the first journalist to be silenced in this way. She’s attended court seven times after receiving two orders and has been threatened with a third.


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top secret: we're going to fuck you over...

While Australia’s domestic spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, was running a foreign-intelligence operation early last year, its officers broke the law.

During what was described as a “multi-faceted, multi-agency” operation, they collected intelligence without a warrant, mistakenly believing they didn’t need one.

The agency’s lawyers weren’t told when the operation changed, meaning officers acted without proper legal advice and, at times, outside the complex web of laws governing their work.

Officers were also seconded to ASIO from other agencies for the operation without legal authorisation and were then inadequately managed and supervised. The required reports were not filed.

These were the findings of a 16-month investigation by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS), the security agencies’ watchdog, after ASIO discovered and reported its mistakes.

The IGIS found the breaches were inadvertent but ASIO’s procedures had not kept up with legislation and it had provided “little, if any” compliance training to ensure its officers actually understood the laws under which they worked.

It found the “significant problems” in planning and executing the operation had stemmed from “systemic weaknesses” in compliance.

“Whilst operational staff complied with ASIO’s operational planning procedures, these procedures were inconsistent with other ASIO policies and were insufficient to ensure that ASIO acted lawfully,” the IGIS said in its recently published annual report.

On Thursday, in response to written questions, ASIO’s director-general of security Mike Burgess told The Saturday Paper that his agency is “committed to operating legally and ethically and takes compliance seriously”.

“ASIO is also committed to a culture of transparency and robust independent oversight, and we continue to work with the IGIS to identify where processes can be further improved,” he said.

He said the Australian community rightly expected intelligence agencies to be subject to scrutiny and oversight.

“There is a high degree of compliance with formal and procedural requirements – from time to time there will be human administrative errors.”

Burgess said his predecessor, Duncan Lewis, had accepted the IGIS’s report and the implementation of her recommendations was under way. He said ASIO had upgraded its training and IGIS had acknowledged it had also improved its procedures for reporting breaches.

The ASIO breach highlights the pressure a huge volume of national security legislation is placing on those tasked with its execution. Those responsible for its drafting and scrutiny are also feeling the strain.

In some cases, national security legislation has been found to grant powers beyond the declared objectives – apparent unintended consequences, which are causing alarm for watchdogs both inside and outside of government.

Last week, the IGIS lodged a submission with another oversight body, the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security (PJCIS), which is investigating federal laws designed to force tech companies to grant security agencies access to encrypted communications.

Parliament passed the encryption laws late last year, despite strong warnings from the tech industry and some legal experts that they could be dangerous.

The government agreed the PJCIS should examine the laws again.


In her submission last week, IGIS Margaret Stone raised ongoing serious concerns about how the laws are drafted, especially about ASIO’s powers to make voluntary assistance requests and compulsory assistance orders.

Stone found the legislation’s wording meant people subject to compulsory orders did not have to be told about them. She said the orders could also apply both before an underlying warrant was executed and after it ceased.

She found people could be subject to arbitrary arrest and detention because the orders did not have to detail where their subjects had to attend, the assistance required, or the time frame.

Stone cautioned that people could face up to five years’ jail for breaching an order they did not know existed.

ASIO was also not required to delete information obtained under an assistance order that was no longer required, despite the ASIO Act requiring it.


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Meanwhile at the AFP.........:


The battle over press freedom will move to the High Court in Canberra today, with lawyers for News Corp political journalist Annika Smethurst calling for the Australian Federal Police to destroy copies of data collected from her mobile phone.

Key points:
  • Smethurst's stories claimed government departments were considering allowing the Australian Signals Directorate to monitor Australians domestically
  • The Commonwealth argues documents she was given access to were unlawfully obtained
  • Her lawyers say she was not under arrest when her phone was accessed and documents the AFP copied should be destroyed


The search of Smethurst's home in June was linked to leaked classified information she had used in stories more than a year earlier. 

Those stories claimed the Defence and Home Affairs departments were discussing expanded powers for the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to monitor Australians domestically.

At present it can only operate offshore.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has since argued the report was a misrepresentation of the discussions, which were about targeting child sex offenders.

The raid came just a day before a similar exercise at the ABC's headquarters in Sydney over a separate story, also based on leaked classified information.

Documents were 'top secret': Commonwealth

Today's High Court case is partly about freedom of speech.

In their submissions, Smethurst's lawyers have taken aim at a law banning the disclosure of official secrets, arguing it was invalid at the time the article was published, because it breached the Constitution's implied right to freedom of political communication.

In his submissions, Commonwealth Solicitor General Stephen Donaghue agreed the law did have an impact on that freedom, but said it served a legitimate purpose which outweighed any constitutional right.

He said the documents were clearly marked as top secret.

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Read from top.  Note that anything can be marked "Top Secret" by the government and your democratic rights vanish in a jiffy...

are atheist turds more dangerous than religious ones?


Asked about his own religious beliefs, Mr Porter said that he was not a regular churchgoer, but a belief in a higher power was a good insurance policy.

“Do I believe in God? Sure. It’s very dangerous not to.”


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The Scummo government is slowly destroying the importance of secularity with various religious "exceptions". This is short-sighted and "dangerous". "Very dangerous not to believe in god?" What has this to do with the price of fish? God is an illusion that should have nothing to do with the running of a community or a country. A good "insurance policy" would be to start learning about scientific realities rather than stick with old mumbo jumbo... A good "insurance policy" would be to understand the seriousness of global warming... God has nothing to do with all this.

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Please read also:

systematic The goal of this article is to figure out why sciences are not appreciated as much as they should...

global warming is predictable, though global warming compounds the unpredictability of the weather...


what is philosophy?...


Sociology versus religionism in democracy…

and more...

urgency for a federal body but porter drags on...

The Morrison government has missed its own deadline to release its integrity commission legislation for consultation, with Christian Porter refusing to commit to a timeline for its passage.

The independent crossbencher Zali Steggall said the McKenzie sports grant revelations were further proof of the “urgent need” for a federal body capable of investigating the actions of commonwealth MPs and ministers.

However, the attorney general held firm to the need for “extensive consultation”, declaring it will “take as long as necessary”, dashing hopes the Morrison government will move quickly to establish the body, despite Porter’s promise to release the draft bill before the end of last year.

Porter admitted the government had missed its self-imposed deadline, as it faces a fight winning over members of its own backbench who remain concerned the two-tier proposal won’t hold ministers and MPs to account.

“Work to deliver the commonwealth integrity commission draft consultation bill is now all but complete,” Porter told the Guardian.

“But rather than starting the consultation process during the holiday period, which is not an ideal time to start a process of public scrutiny, I have decided to release the full 300-plus pages of the draft early in the new year.

“The consultation process will be extensive and will take as long as necessary to ensure the model we deliver has the powers and resources it needs to be effective, while also avoiding the pitfalls that have been seen with similar state-based bodies.”

The scathing auditor general report into former sports minister Bridget McKenzie’s handling of Sports Australia grants has reignited debate over the need for a federal integrity body, capable of investigating MPs.


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