Australian News

Lack of gender options at Centrelink is causing non-binary students to be cut off

14th april 2017

Non-binary and gender diverse students are experiencing delays and unexpected cancellations of their Centrelink payments, due to Centrelink’s system only offering ‘male’ or ‘female’ as gender options.

Students who have been affected say that the disruption is occurring because they are commonly able to choose a third gender option – often listed as ‘Other’ or ‘Unspecified’ – on their university forms for enrolment, but do not receive the same option for their Centrelink details. Centrelink’s internal system then notices that a fundamental piece of of information is different to what the university is providing, so the student’s payment is disrupted.

A non-binary student at the University of Sydney said to The Guardian, “They called to say they’ve been trying to confirm whether I’m a student for the last month but every week they get a response that no student matches those details. It’s real bullshit for a few reasons. Why does gender need to come into it? My name, address and student ID all match.”

According to the student, Centrelink do not have facilities within the system to even accommodate non-binary people, despite the fact that Australian government guidelines were released in 2013 stating that “where sex and/or gender information is collected … individuals should be given the option to select M (male), F (female), or X (Indeterminate / Intersex / Unspecified)”

“My gender is my business.”

“I asked the person on the phone if she could update my gender on the Centrelink systems to match my enrolment and she said, ‘The current software means that isn’t possible. If you identify as a non-binary gender, we can only add a note to your personal record’,” they said.

The student remarked that they had never been informed of this by Centrelink: “No one seems to know how to handle this sort of thing. Everyone has systems in place but no one knows how to use them or is trained in it. This stuff is super common, to be honest – it’s annoying and tiring but unsurprising.”

Another non-binary applicant said that they didn’t know what to do when listing gender on Centrelink registration forms, saying, “I’m applying for the disability pension and I filled out their form with just male or female options, and I wrote next to it that I am non-binary,” they said. “Hopefully that doesn’t come back to bite me. People like me didn’t get a choice as to what they put on our birth certificate, but we’re still having to play by rules that define us.”

Hank Jorgen, the general manager of the Department of Human Services said that the lack of an ‘X’ gender option at Centrelink was noted, but it was a work in progress.

“The department recognises that individuals should have the option of selecting a male (M), female (F) or non-binary (X) gender value,” he said. “Because of the scale and complexities around the department’s forms and ageing IT systems, changes are being made progressively as part of a multi-year project.

“A person’s eligibility for social security payments is not conditional on their gender. The department does not cancel payments to recipients because they do not identify as either male or female.”

Executive director of Transgender Victoria Sally Goldner told The Guardian, “If other government agencies have done it, I don’t understand why it would be that hard for Centrelink to do it. The sex and gender guidelines were introduced for all government departments in mid-2013, so they’re clearly way overdue. It would also help data collection on all sorts of stuff, we could find out unemployment rates for non-binary people, which we have always suspected are much higher. There are a lot of benefits for society as a whole. It was trans day of visibility last Friday – let’s get done what needs to be done.”

Several universities across Australia offer students multiple gender options on forms, including the University of Melbourne, Australian National University, University of New South Wales, University of Queensland and University of Adelaide.




Survivalist and doomsday prepper James Wesley, Rawles says Darwin is the best place in Australia to survive an apocalyps

8th April 2017

Rawles said that despite the location of Darwin, situated on the Timor Sea and in proximity to South East Asia, it was the perfect place for Australians to flock in the event of an apocalyptic type event.

“The culpable region, would be Darwin. You have plenty of rainfall (enough resources) but you have a very light population density overall,” he said.

He said he had studied Australia after using the country as a setting for one of his novels, Expatriates.

“After the United States suffers a major socio-economic meltdown, a power vacuum sweeps the globe,” a description of the book reads.

“A newly-radicalised Islamic government has risen in Indonesia and — after invading the Philippines, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea — sets its sights on Australia. No longer protected by American military interests, Australia must repel an invasion alone.”

Rawles said the novel is a “survival manual dressed as fiction” which formed the basis for his opinion on Darwin.

“Up in the wet would probably be the most sustainable place to be, even though the tropical climate has its own set of problems.

“On balance, because of a light population density, its remoteness from major population centres on the east coast, Darwin would probably be the safest place.

“Without water, you’re a refugee. You can improvise a lot of things, but you can’t improvise water. You can store a lot of things, but water is bulky, you can’t store a couple years worth of water, certainly not in the context of a suburban home.

“Outside of water, everything else is secondary from a survival standpoint.”




For some transgender students, the school bathroom is a battleground

fuck it thats enough

5th April 2017

Georgie Stone was eight years old when the school bathroom became a battleground.

In the face of daily humiliation and bullying, going to the toilet had become an act of enormous courage.

Born biologically male, Georgie had known from an early age she was a girl.

But despite her transition at age seven — identifying as, dressing as, and asking to be recognised as a girl — she was not allowed to use the girls’ facilities at school.

Georgie’s mother said the principal told her it would confuse the other children and potentially incite tensions with parents.

It led to an incident in the boys’ swimming change room, just before Georgie’s ninth birthday, that she describes as one of the most traumatic of her life.

“I was wearing female bathers, I had long hair and people knew that I’d transitioned. I remember walking in there and it was all boys and a lot of the people who had bullied me in the past were in there,” the 16-year-old said.

“I just remember them jeering at me, making fun of me, shouting at me, saying, ‘What’s a girl doing in the male change rooms?’. It was awful. I ran out half-dressed, crying my eyes out.”

For the rest of the term, Georgie got changed for swimming behind a tree. At school, she stopped going to the bathroom altogether.

Concerned for her safety, her parents found a more understanding school. Now she is thriving and no longer lives in fear.

But the simple act of visiting the toilet remains a minefield for many trans and gender diverse students.

Students wearing nappies to school to avoid using toilets

As global recognition of the rights and struggles of transgender people grows, the momentum is throwing up a complex set of challenges for schools, most acutely around bathroom access.

Principals are balancing the needs of trans and gender diverse young people against the potential pushback from school communities — already witnessed in the United States — where opponents argue girls born biologically male pose a risk to other students in female bathrooms.

Transgender young people and their families say they are no threat and just want to feel comfortable using toilets.

But in the absence of uniform national guidelines outlining schools’ legal obligations, some Australian students are being forced to use bathrooms that do not match their gender identity, in some instances causing them such distress that parents are pulling them out of school entirely.

Michelle Telfer, director of Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital’s Gender Service, said many young transgender people go to extreme lengths to feel safe in school bathrooms.

“We’ve seen kids who’ve worn nappies to school — in high school — to avoid going to the toilet.”

“Kids who don’t drink from the time they get up in the morning to the time they get home from school so that they’re dehydrated and they don’t need to go to the toilet,” Dr Telfer said.

Melbourne student Oliver Kipnis identified as a boy, and dressed in boys’ clothing, until he transitioned at age 10. But until he came out to his classmates he felt obliged to use the girls’ bathrooms.

“When I was about nine I had an incident at school where another girl said, ‘Aren’t you in the wrong toilets?’ So I stopped using toilets in public altogether,” the 14-year-old said.

“It was such an awkward experience and I didn’t want to repeat it so I just stopped drinking water and went to the toilet at home.”

Things are slowly changing

The Australian Education Union has called on state education departments to follow the lead of South Australia, which last month became the first state to introduce a new policy that requires all public schools to allow students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.

The education department developed the mandatory guidelines — which also allow students to use their preferred gender pronoun — following a number of queries from teachers and parents seeking guidance.

The policy states that, “failure to provide transgender students with access to appropriate toilet and change facilities may breach anti-discrimination legislation”.

Victoria and Western Australia have introduced similar, although less explicit, guidelines outlining how schools should support trans and gender diverse students, including allowing them to access bathrooms that match their gender identity.

Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe said it was “vital” schools support trans and gender diverse students to access appropriate bathrooms.

However, there is growing opposition to the advance of transgender rights, particularly in schools, fuelling concerns trans children here will be caught up in the so-called “bathroom wars”.

Australian conservative groups — including the Australian Christian Lobby — have applauded US President Donald Trump’s recent move to wind back federal protections for transgender students, which had instructed public schools to allow students to use the toilets and change rooms matching their gender identities or lose government funding.

“There are lobbyists within Australia who are really keen to import that idea of fear of a threat that really doesn’t exist,” said Laura*, the mother of a 13-year-old trans girl from rural Tasmania, who runs the support group Gender Help for Parents.

“They’re just playing by the same playbook that they’ve used in the US. I think our kids are potentially going to be the next targets.”

Some parents are opting out of the school system

After campaigning fiercely against the Safe Schools anti-bullying program, The Australian Christian Lobby has called on all state governments to “take immediate steps to allow schoolgirls to feel safe in school toilets and change rooms”.

Managing director Lyle Shelton said this meant “boys identifying as girls” should not be allowed access to girls’ private spaces such as toilets and change rooms.

When asked whether he thought transgender girls using female bathrooms was a risk to other students, Mr Shelton did not comment but said: “The idea of allowing biological males identifying as girls who have not had gender reassignment surgery to enter girls’ private spaces is new.

“It is not reasonable for parents to be required, without their permission, to have their daughters participate in such a social experiment.”

In the face of confusion and potential trauma to their transgender children, some parents are opting out of the school system altogether.

Kerri* has home-schooled her 16-year-old daughter Jasmine* since she transitioned at age seven, after her school in regional South Australia insisted she would not be allowed to use the girls’ bathrooms until Kerri provided documents from a lawyer, counsellor, psychiatrist and GP.

“They were worried about legal issues. They wanted documents that would indemnify them if other parents had an issue,” she said.

While Kerri gathered the documentation, the principal offered Jasmine the disabled or staff toilets — a common solution by schools that can often leave the student feeling more alienated.

For Jasmine, it was too late.

“We had to pull her out because she was just too distressed. She would try to hold on but she was having accidents, wetting herself,” Kerri said. “There was just so much shame and fear for her.”

‘The predator myth’

As yet, no Australian student who has been denied bathroom access has publicly challenged their school.

But in the United States, Virginia teenager Gavin Grimm has become the face of the bathroom wars, taking his case to the Supreme Court, after being denied access to the male toilets and locker rooms by his school, citing breaches of federal law.

The equivalent Australian law is the Sex Discrimination Act, which Anna Brown, Director of Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said protected transgender students.

“Schools have a legal duty not to subject students to a ‘detriment’ or limit access to any benefit because of their gender identity,” Ms Brown said.

“In practice this means supporting students as they transition, including allowing them to use toilets that accords with the gender they live as.”

In the United States, opposition to bathroom access has centred on what equality campaigners have dubbed the “predator myth”.

Conservative groups have argued that allowing trans people to use the toilet of their affirmed gender could lead to attacks on women and girls by men or boys posing as transgender females.

In response, a coalition of more than 200 organisations working with sexual assault and domestic violence survivors last year released a statement pointing out that in the 18 states where anti-discrimination laws protect trans people’s access to the bathroom of their affirmed gender, there has been no rise in sexual violence offences.

Catharine Lumby, a Macquarie University professor who researches gender and the media, argues transgender women are more likely to be the victims of a transphobic attack than predators themselves.

“The predator mythology is a smokescreen for some people’s deep discomfort with the idea that gender is fluid … often male conservatives, who’d like return to a world where gender roles were highly structured and easy to identify,” she said.

Young people aren’t ‘choosing’ to be trans

In Australia, much of the opposition rests with a discomfort about young people transitioning too early, and a belief that some will change their minds.

David van Gend, president of the Australian Marriage Forum which opposes same-sex marriage, said he was concerned that allowing transgender students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity “collaborates with a child’s delusion”.

“Given the fact that the vast majority of gender-confused children get over their confusion around the time of puberty, why use the authority of the school to affirm and entrench their confused behaviour?” Dr van Gend said.

Dr van Gend said such policies were “clinically reckless” and likened them to agreeing with an emaciated girl suffering from anorexia that she is fat.

“In both cases, we must strive to help the young person come back to reality.”

Dr Telfer said studies showing children grow out of their transgender identity had been widely discredited and that young people going through gender transition do so in consultation with parents, teachers and medical professionals.

“The young people we see aren’t choosing to be trans. It’s something they’ve thought about their entire life and has often taken a lot of courage over several years to speak up,” she said.

“They’re driven to come out to save themselves from self-harm and suicide.”

Dr Telfer said Oliver’ story was an example of how transgender children can flourish when offered appropriate support.

Before he came out to classmates, Safe Schools Coalition Australia visited the school at the request of the principal and worked out a plan with Oliver, his family and staff, allowing him to use the boys’ toilets and play in the boys’ sports teams.

“Nothing really changed except that they stopped using that old name and they started using the new pronoun,” Oliver said. “It wasn’t a big deal. I was just me.”






Unvaccinated Australian children being refused medical care over immunisation, survey finds


8th March 2017

Some unvaccinated Australian children are being turned away for medical treatment because their immunisation is not up-to-date, a survey has found.

The Australian Child Health Poll of almost 2,000 parents found among 5 per cent of children who were not up-to-date with the vaccinations, one in six had been refused care — particularly those under the age of six years.

The survey found:

  • One in three parents still hold concerns about vaccinations
  • 74 per cent of parents believe they should be told how many children are not up-to-date with vaccines at schools or childcare centres
  • Seven out of 10 parents say knowing the number of under-vaccinated children would influence their decision over child care, schools
  • Parents are confused about whether to delay vaccines when a child has a minor illness
  • One in 10 Australian parents believe that vaccines can cause autism, and a another 30 per cent are unsure

*Australian Child Health Poll

Anthea Rhodes from Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital said the finding was a concern.

“It’s been a topic in the US for a long time and it’s a complex one about rights to refuse care to unvaccinated kids,” Dr Rhodes told ABC News Breakfast.

“At the Royal Children’s Hospital we are clear in our position that all children have equal rights to access health care, regardless of their vaccination status.

“It’s concerning for us to find that this practice is happening in Australia and it needs some more research now to look at who, how, why and when.”

The study found most Australian children — 95 per cent — were fully vaccinated, but one in three parents still held concerns.

One in 10 parents believed that vaccines could cause autism, and a further 30 per cent were unsure — despite medical research showing no causal link.

“Look, vaccinations work. They are safe. They have saved many, many lives in Australia and across the world and we are pleased to see in the study that the vast majority of Australian parents do support vaccination and keep their kids up-to-date,” Dr Rhodes said.

“But there is a small number out there who continue to have unfounded worries and concerns. They need to speak to their healthcare providers to keep them up-to-date.”

The survey also found 74 per cent of parents believed they should be informed about the number of children not fully vaccinated in their child’s school, kindergarten or childcare centre.

Seven out of 10 of those parents said that information would influence their decision to send their child there.

Dr Rhodes said there were also myths around delaying vaccinations in unwell children.

“For example, around half of parents felt a child on antibiotics who was otherwise well would need their vaccines delayed. That’s untrue,” she said.

‘I’ve never heard of any doctor refusing treatment’

The Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) Victorian president Lorraine Baker said she had never heard of any doctor refusing a child treatment.

“I’ve never heard, and I can say that with absolute confidence, of any doctor refusing treatment to an unvaccinated child where the child needed treatment immediately. You find work arounds for that,” Dr Baker said.

Dr Baker said she was unsure whether those parents surveyed were reporting an outright refusal of care or that it had been delayed.

“I consider situations where for instance a maternal and child health service may have had a baby or child visit and the nurse suspects that child has chicken pox or another infectious disease and knows there’s a mother with a newborn coming,” she said.

“What’s the advice? There’s a two-hour exclusion zone when the active virus is in your enclosed space, so I need to make sure no-one enters who isn’t immunised.

“Is it care at a given moment because it wasn’t an appropriate time to deliver care for that child exposed to a particular potential contact with another virus? I don’t know.”

The issue has been in the spotlight in recent days after One Nation leader Pauline Hanson described the Government’s ‘no jab, no pay’ policy as a “dictatorship” and said parents should do their own research into vaccinations.





WikiLeaks Drops the Mother Lode With ‘Vault 7’


8th March 2017

WikiLeaks on Tuesday dumped a trove of documents and files hacked from the Central Intelligence Agency — the largerst ever published from within the U.S. spy agency.
The 8,761 documents code named “VAult 7” contain amazing things, such as the “weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.”
“The CIA had created, in effect, its ‘own NSA’ with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified,” WikiLeaks said in its release.
The documents show that “a specialized unit in the CIA’s Mobile Development Branch produces malware to infest, control and exfiltrate data from iPhones and other Apple products running iOS, such as iPads.”
The CIA also runs “a very substantial effort to infect and control Microsoft Windows users with its malware.”
The documents also show that “in addition to its operations in Langley, Virginia, the CIA also uses the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt as a covert base for its hackers covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
“CIA hackers operating out of the Frankfurt consulate ( ‘Center for Cyber Intelligence Europe’ or CCIE) are given diplomatic (‘black’) passports and State Department cover. The instructions for incoming CIA hackers make Germany’s counter-intelligence efforts appear inconsequential: ‘Breeze through German Customs because you have your cover-for-action story down pat, and all they did was stamp your passport.’ “
“There is an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber ‘weapons’. Comparisons can be drawn between the uncontrolled proliferation of such ‘weapons’, which results from the inability to contain them combined with their high market value, and the global arms trade. But the significance of ‘Year Zero’ goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar and cyberpeace. The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective,” said WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange.




Child-sex doll maker: It’s a public service


7th March 2017

wo WA men could face up to 10 years in prison after their alleged attempts to import banned child sex dolls were uncovered by the Australian Border Force.

The dolls, which are extremely lifelike and feature anatomically correct genitals, are designed for paedophiles and can be made to order to represent a child of any age, ethnicity or gender.

The ABF said the two WA men had each tried to import a female child doll recently from manufacturers in Asia, but their orders were intercepted at a mail-sorting centre when they arrived in Australia.

WA Police were immediately notified and it is understood the men’s homes have been raided.

Inquiries are continuing and no charges have as yet been laid. The dolls are classified as “objectionable goods” and those caught trying to import them face up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $450,000 under the Customs Act.

“Objectionable goods includes material that describes, depicts, expresses or otherwise deals with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in a way that would offend a reasonable adult,” a border force spokeswoman said.

“This includes dolls manufactured for a sexual purpose that depict a child under the age of 18 years.”

Japanese-based company Trottla is one of several in Asia which manufacture child sex dolls and it makes no secret of what they are designed for.

Images on the company’s website show them dressed in leather or lace underwear and positioned in provocative poses.

Trottla’s owner Shin Takagi, who admits to experiencing paedophilic impulses, claims to be performing a public service by providing paedophiles with an outlet for their perversions, thereby preventing real children from being abused.

The ABF spokeswoman said attempts to import the dolls into Australia appeared to be on the rise, with several seized in other States in recent months.

Twenty-three have been seized since 2013 and investigations into those caught trying to import them often resulted in other offences being identified.

“While investigations often begin with an interception of a child sex doll by ABF at the border, subsequent warrant activity often locates additional evidence of child exploitation which may result in more serious charges,” she said.




Concern about ‘big brother’ surveillance in Moreton Bay area, privacy commissioner reviewing use

big brother facebook

8th Feb 2016

Queensland’s privacy commissioner is reviewing new ‘big brother’ surveillance technology being used to record video and audio of members of the public in the Moreton Bay area.

Yesterday, the Moreton Bay Regional Council announced it had deployed about 330 new devices in public spaces, with plans to install dozens more.

Mayor Allan Sutherland said it would help boost community safety.

“Moreton Bay Region now has the ability to not only see what’s going on, but to be able to hear what’s going on,” he said.

“We don’t listen on a daily basis; as requested if the police come along and say: ‘Can we have the footage?’

“Unless you’ve got anything to hide, you haven’t got anything to worry about.”

The devices record and store data for several weeks.

Council ‘very scant on details’

Queensland’s privacy commissioner Phil Green said he was enquiring to see if the use of the technology breached privacy laws.

“I’m still in the fact-finding mode — I obviously don’t act rashly, I’m trying to look into this and have a rational good public debate on the issue,” he said.

“If the public aren’t happy with this sort of development, then the State Government can enact laws, but I think the laws already possibly stop this sort of thing happening.”

He said the private sector could soon follow suit, unless privacy laws were clarified.

“Do the public want it? Because if councils do it, then the universities do it, and the hospitals do it,” Mr Green said.

“If it’s one council doing it, then it could be all the councils doing it across Australia, so we do need to look at it carefully.”

Mr Green said his office was only informed last week.

“I understand my office did receive a draft press release about it, but very scant on details and of course that’s probably not the best way of going about launching something about this when it involves a fair investment,” Mr Green said.

Council has not breached any laws, spokesperson says

Councillor Sutherland was unable to comment on the development, but in a statement a spokesperson said the council had not breached any laws.

“Council provided a copy of its proposed media release and advisory signage to staff from the Office of the Information Commissioner,” the statement said.

“Council is satisfied its use of the CCTV footage and audio is consistent with its obligations under the Information Privacy Act.”

In the last budget, council announced $801,000 would be spent on upgrading surveillance cameras across public areas.

Some of the new cameras have been deployed in locations including Centenary Lakes Park in Caboolture, Burpengary Sports Precinct, and Bee Gees Way at Redcliffe.

‘Big brother’ watching and listening

Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts said the public should be concerned.

“It seems that not only big brother is watching but in the guise of the Moreton Bay council, he’s also listening,” Mr Potts said.

“I can understand why people in a public place may have no expectation of privacy, but their ordinary conversations about their friends, about their families, about their work and just the ordinary social chit-chat, should always remain completely sacrosanct.

“If the Mayor was fair dinkum in his argument that only those people who have something to hide would object to being listened to by the Moreton Bay Regional Council, perhaps he could volunteer to be listened to seven days a week, 24 hours a day, by his constituents before he understand the value of privacy.”

source :

Australia PM adviser says climate change is ‘UN-led ruse to establish new world order’

global warming

24th Jan 2016

Climate change is a hoax developed as part of a secret plot by the United Nations to undermine democracies and takeover the world, a top adviser to Tony Abbott, Australia’s prime minister, has warned.

Maurice Newman, the chief business adviser to the prime minister, said the science showing links between human activity and the warming climate was wrong but was being used as a “hook” by the UN to expand its global control.

“This is not about facts or logic. It’s about a new world order under the control of the UN,” he wrote in The Australian.

“It is opposed to capitalism and freedom and has made environmental catastrophism a household topic to achieve its objective.” Born in Ilford, England, and educated in Australia, Mr Newman, a staunch conservative and former chairman of the Australian Stock Exchange, has long been an outspoken critic of climate change science.

He was appointed chairman of the government’s business advisory council by Mr Abbott, who himself is something of a climate change sceptic and once famously described climate change as “absolute cr**” – a comment he later recanted.

In his comment piece – described by critics as “whacko” – Mr Newman said the world has been “subjected to extravagance from climate catastrophists for close to 50 years”.

“It’s a well-kept secret, but 95 per cent of the climate models we are told prove the link between human CO2 emissions and catastrophic global warming have been found, after nearly two decades of temperature stasis, to be in error,” he wrote.

“The real agenda is concentrated political authority. Global warming is the hook. Eco-catastrophists [ …] have captured the UN and are extremely well funded. They have a hugely powerful ally in the White House.”

Environmental groups and scientists described Mr Newman as a ‘crazed’ conspiracy theorist and some called on him to resign.

“His anti-science, fringe views are indistinguishable from those made by angry trolls on conspiracy theory forums,” said the Climate Change Council.

Professor Will Steffen, a climate change scientist, told The Australian Financial Review: “These are bizarre comments that would be funny if they did not come from [Mr Abbott’s] chief business adviser.” Mr Abbott’s office did not respond but his environment minister said he did not agree with Mr Newman’s comments.

The article was written by Mr Newman to coincide with a visit by Christiana Figueres, the UN climate change negotiation, who has urged Australia to reduce its reliance on coal. Australia is one of the world’s biggest emitters of carbon emissions per capita.

Since his election in 2013, Mr Abbott has abolished Labor’s carbon tax, scaled back renewable energy targets and appointed sceptics to several significant government positions.




Biometric recognition at airport border ​​raises privacy concerns, says expert


24th Jan 2017

A plan to rely on biometric recognition to further automate airport border processing raises privacy and ethical concerns about data security, according to an expert.

But another information security analyst says the plan – which would involve 90% of passengers being processed through Australian airport immigration without human involvement – would not present any more privacy concerns than current border control regimes.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is tendering for a company to provide it with an “automated processing solution” to support its “seamless traveller” plan, which would allow for the automated processing of passengers using biometric identification.

Tender documents say 90% of passengers would go through through automated processing points, which would rely on biometric capturing “including but not limited to facial, iris and fingerprints”.

The department said it was expecting incoming air passengers to Australia to increase dramatically in coming years, and wanted to ensure they could move seamlessly through airports without compromising border security.

However, University of Wollongong tech and biometrics expert Prof Katina Michael said such technology had not been proven to have improved security or airport efficiency.

Michael said the plan posed a risk to individual privacy and raised ethical dilemmas that had not been properly explained to the public.

“We are steam-training right through all of these technological transitions and we’re not really thinking about the ramifications,” she said. “Even if the system works, is that ethical to impose this system on the entire populace, without even asking them? I see the perceived benefit, but what I do know is that there will be real costs, human costs, not only through the loss of staff through automation, but also through discrimination of people who may appear different.”

Michael said recent threats to the security of government-held data such as the census failure should raise real concerns about the storage of biometric data en masse.

“I am worried about theft, I don’t buy the story that your data is safe. I think we’ve become almost complacent ‘oh there’s been another data breach. Oh they hacked in and stole the data’,” she said. “Is the next phase of rollout going to be ‘oh my e-health records were taken’, ‘oh my biometrics at border control were taken’?”

But others have played down concerns about the government’s plan. Information security expert and reporter Patrick Gray said airport passengers were already the subject of heavy surveillance and biometric testing.

Gray said the government’s plan appeared to simply make the recognition process less clunky than the current SmartGate systems used in Australian airports.

“Airports are already among the most surveilled places on the planet. The time to be worrying about this is when someone seriously proposes running live facial recognition against CCTV in public places like city streets and train stations with insufficient oversight on use. Then we’ve got a problem,” he said.

“Better, highly-automated facial recognition is going to be a massive privacy issue one day, but the technology at least makes sense in airports.”

According to tender documents, the government wants to replace the incoming passenger card, eliminate the need for physical tickets at border control, and allow some passengers to travel using contactless technology, which would remove the need to present a passport.

Manual marshall points for triaging passengers would be removed, and replaced with more automated processes. The technology would be trialled at Canberra airport, and later deployed at nine Australian airports.



President Trump signs order to withdraw from Trans-Pacific Partnership


24th Jan 2017

President Trump began recasting America’s role in the global economy Monday, canceling an agreement for a sweeping trade deal with Asia that he once called a “potential disaster.”

Trump signed the executive order formally ending the United States’ participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the Oval Office after discussing American manufacturing with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room. The order was largely symbolic — the deal was already essentially dead in Congress — but served to signal that Trump’s tough talk on trade during the campaign will carry over to his new administration.

Trump did not directly address the North American Free Trade Agreement on Monday as he had promised during the election. However, he repeated his threat to punish U.S. companies that build factories overseas and ship products back home — a charge he has primarily leveled at automakers with operations in Mexico. And his hard-line opening stance could portend a contentious renegotiation of the 22-year-old deal with Mexico and Canada that Trump’s senior advisers have called a top priority for the new administration.

“This abrupt action so early in the Trump administration puts the world on notice that all of America’s traditional economic and political alliances are now open to reassessment and renegotiation,” said Eswar Prasad, trade policy professor at Cornell University. “This could have an adverse long-run impact on the ability of the U.S. to maintain its influence and leadership in world economic and political affairs.”

The TPP was one of former president Barack Obama’s signature efforts, part of a broader strategy to increase American clout in Asia and provide a check on China’s economic and military ambitions. Several of the executives Trump met with Monday initially had supported the agreement, while the chief architect of the administration’s trade policy, Commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross, was also once a booster for the deal.

But ending TPP was one of the clarion calls of Trump’s campaign, part of a global backlash against the drive toward greater internationalization that has defined the world economy since the end of World War II. British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is in the midst of navigating her country’s own break from established trading partners, is slated to visit with Trump later this week. A White House spokesman said meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto are in the works.

“What we want is fair trade,” Trump said during his meeting with executives. “And we’re gonna treat countries fairly, but they have to treat us fairly.”

Trump starts unveiling trade agenda while Cabinet nominees continue confirmation process

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President Trump started his first full week in office Jan. 23 by signing an executive order ending U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Since the election, TPP has become politically toxic in both parties. On Monday, five Democratic senators introduced legislation that would require the president to notify each of the 11 other countries involved in the deal of the United States’ withdrawal. It would also block any so-called “fast track” approval of the agreement in the future. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka hailed the president’s executive order and called for additional action.

“They are just the first in a series of necessary policy changes required to build a fair and just global economy,” he said in a statement.

On Monday, Trump highlighted his proposal for a border tax as a centerpiece of the administration’s trade policy. Dow Chemical Chief Executive Andrew Liveris, who was among the business leaders who met with Trump on Monday morning, said the border tax was discussed extensively. He said the executives were asked to return in 30 days with a plan to shore up the manufacturing industry.

“I would take the president at his word here,” Liveris said. “He’s not going to do anything to harm competitiveness. He’s going to actually make us all more competitive.”

Still, it remains unclear exactly how a border tax would be implemented. Testifying before the Senate finance committee last week, Trump’s nominee to lead the Treasury Department said any border tax would be targeted at specific businesses. However, the president does not have the power to levy taxes, and international trade experts have warned singling out companies could violate existing treaties.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan has proposed allowing businesses that export goods to deduct many of their expenses, while those that import would not receive the same benefit. But in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump dismissed the plan, known as border adjustment, as “too complicated.”

Economists have warned that many of Trump’s proposals — including suggestions that he would impose blanket double-digit tariffs on goods from Mexico and China — could backfire on the American economy by causing prices to rise or igniting a trade war. And business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had lobbied extensively for passage of TPP, touting the deal as an engine of job growth and an important check on China’s growing ambitions.

“TPP withdrawal will slow U.S. [economic] growth, cost American jobs, & weaken U.S. standing in Asia/world,” said Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a tweet early Monday. “China could well be principal beneficiary.”

But other industry groups argued that Trump’s approach would better leverage America’s status as the world’s largest economy. Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said his group is hoping that opening up NAFTA could provide more leeway to combat currency manipulation in countries outside the agreement. His group, which represents both industry and unions, is also seeking more stringent rules of origin that dictate how much production must occur with member countries to qualify for free trade status.

“The details are going to matter a lot,” Paul said. “Renegotiating NAFTA obviously entails some risks and some rewards.”