“The federal Liberal Party must and does stay within the law, and we will always do that. It is crucial we do that if we’re to retain the trust of the Australian people.”
Straight man, Federal Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber-security, formerly Digital Transformation, Angus “Trust-me” Taylor’s SBS News shtick is a crack-up: he denies his party’s into data mining, an electronic personal space invader devouring our democracy.
Angus may lack the gravitas of daggy Dan Tehan, MP for Wannon, his earnest predecessor, (now promoted to Social Services, a career move helped, no doubt, by his view that low-income earners – minimum wage and below should pay tax – how else will they break their welfare dependency?), but Angus can certainly keep a poker face.
The Enforcer hits the airwaves this week with the world’s funniest appeal to be taken seriously – “Trust us, we’re The Liberal Party” (only one of our treasurers is in gaol.)
Total team-player, Taylor won’t speak for the South Australian Libs, however.
Is he implying Marshall’s mob is crooked? SA Liberals freely admit to using i360, a data mining program which purloins voters’ precious personal details, vital to lobbying marginal seats. Some say it helped win its last election, although electoral boundary changes probably helped, too – and ballot paper changes sprung on unwary voters.
Liberals import i360 software from the US. Where would be without the land of the free? i360 is an electronic thieving magpie which steals glittering “information gleaned from social media, polls and surveys to pinpoint vacillating voters’ addresses and the issues they care about in key marginal seats so they can be targeted for lobbying”.
I360’s development has been a project of industrial billionaires, Charles and David Koch. Life isn’t easy for them. Chuck, 78, and Dave, 74, are worth $ 41 billion each but according to Forbes’ list are only the fourth richest men in the US. They tie for sixth on the world’s richest billionaires list. Clearly the bludgers are under-achieving.
To compensate, they’ve set up a network as the joint project of many mega-wealthy reactionaries determined to reshape US politics and public policy in libertarian and anti-government directions. Part of this corruption of democracy involves funding the i360 data mining project which dovetails neatly with Facebook. But don’t close your account.
Your personal information is not only stolen from social media or given away in those contests and claim forms which require your personal information, it is bought and sold. Thankfully, you can help things along a bit with a bit of far-sighted DIY data mining.
Digi.me 2009 says it is “a personal data collection company that equips consumers with the tools to take ownership of their digital footprint, enabling users to collect and share the information directly with companies on their own terms.” Share or sell?
Sell yourself? Flog your own footprint? A Neoliberal wet dream. i360 is far more couth.
Politico explains that the i360 recipe matches voter information with consumer data purchased from credit agencies and other vendors. Blend in social network data. Add a dash of any interaction you may have had with campaigns and advocacy groups.
Don’t worry about your brushes with the law, or visits to the doctor, they may pop up all by themselves. In a massive leak by a private contractor, 50,000 sensitive personal records were exposed online last November. Angus is bound to be on to it by now.
(No biggie. Just names, passwords, ID data, phone numbers, credit card numbers and corporate information including salaries and expenses. Easy to fix now we have a whole new Law Enforcement and Cyber-security department. They’ll be sure to have forms or a recorded message or a self-help website for all that.) Back to your own profile.
Add a topping of recent addresses, how often you have voted, and the make of car you drive. No need to reach for the TV remote. Another i360 service sifts information about your viewing habits to help campaigns target ads more precisely and cost efficiently.
i360 tells campaign workers which doors to knock on; phones to ring. Volunteers out door-knocking can even have their talking points updated in real-time along with their sincerity; fine-tuned with personal detail to match up with the couch-surfer who opens the door as opposed to the landlord or the person paying the rent. How cool is that?
Bear in mind, however, one size does not fit all. A major part of the exercise in the US, where voting is not compulsory and the turnout rate at the last presidential election was 53.5%, the lowest since 1999, is aimed primarily at getting people out to vote.
Is data mining a threat to democracy? Certainly. As are many other existing ailments.
David Marr, appearing on ABC Insiders, Sunday, warns that voters are micro-targeted secretly; issues are not contested publicly. A party can woo voters by “speaking out of both sides of its mouth” in ways which can’t be contested.
Some of this duplicity and born to rule arrogance is already eerily familiar to Australians.
No-one, for example, has been able to budge the Turnbull government from its lie that tax cuts for big corporations create jobs or drive economic growth. Or that renewables are more expensive and less reliable than coal in generating electricity. Or that small business is the engine of the economy. The only real contest takes place behind closed doors with members of the Senate cross-bench seeking their own odd concessions.
The “talking toilet-brush” as Derryn Hinch was known back at home in New Zealand appears to want to have the banks exempted from a tax cut, a reasonable aim given their massive profits. Yet he is quickly, quietly moved on to some lesser consolation prize.
Shock horror at the corruption of our democratic will is not confined to i360. Revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a UK data mining firm, once co-directed by Steve Bannon, which creates detailed profiles of voters and which helped swing the election for Donald Trump, cast another cloud over our otherwise halcyon political landscape.
Pristine Labor Senator, Kristina Keneally, calls Cambridge Analytica’s activities “the dark arts of secretly mining and manipulating our citizens’ personal data”. She doesn’t want it in Australian politics. Too late. Banks do it as the Royal Commission reveals recently when a bank admits to swapping the income and assets of the guarantor with the borrower. All a terrible error, of course, but it did expedite the granting of a loan.
Besides, what sort of profiling does Labor use? There are many competing data mining products in the marketplace. It is unlikely that Labor would not have access to one.
Of course it’s not the brand that matters. It’s the principle of spying and stealing other people’s personal data for your own political gain. As in Facebook trolling.
A spokesman for the Liberal Party’s federal secretariat denies the party uses Cambridge Analytica. In perfect sync with Angus Taylor. Why would they? i360 software can help their party achieve even better results. The Liberals doth protest too much.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that “the tool (i360) is said to have been critical to the Liberals South Australian victory”. How do they know? Is it like selling Amway?
There’s no time to waste testing the snake oil claims. Victorian Libs are already frantically data-mining their way to certain victory in their November state election.
Matthew Guy’s lobster with a mobster fund-raiser and his alleged links with Mafioso will, doubtless be data-matched to sync his crime crackdown with his door-knocking; shield him from random encounters with aggrieved African gangsters.
Guy gets top billing on ABC News these days with his party’s latest Labor bashing. Our radio and TV also helpfully tell us or show us what they think we need to know, based on ratings systems, audience talkback, texts, tweets and station owner’s interests.
Not that mass media are to be confused with election campaign software programmes -but there is a complementary, if not exactly parallel, echo chamber or bubble in which the audience’s prejudices are massaged at the expense of any increased knowledge or understanding.
Of course, prominent MPs would rather a media that was a megaphone. Peter Dutton is in the news with his criticism that the ABC doesn’t applaud his daft claim that we need to extend preferential treatment to South African farmers that alt-right websites insist are becoming a persecuted minority. The facts don’t bear this out. So the ABC’s “dead to him”. Besides, he’s got a swing against him in Dickson that badly needs fixing.
Guy Rundle points out how cheering a discovery it must be to Peter to find that there are “neighbourhoods of white South Africans around his electorate’s Albany Creek area, little Johannesburg East. Being white South Africans, they are active in the local Liberal National Party. A few boatloads of the right, white refugees should pretty well guarantee his re-election.
This is not to ignore his powerful political tactic of dog-whistling racists
Unlike Dutton, Taylor’s ABC is not “dead to him”. So, too, with fossil-fuel tool Frydenberg, the world’s most hopelessly conflicted environment minister, who’ll save marine parks by letting in “well-managed fishing” and more tourists, so he tells Fran Kelly on RN. Josh is so good at what he does he’ll be PM one day. He’s earned it.
Abbott and Dutton are on a talk-show mission to save white South African farmers from a non-existent forced dispossession on their regular 2GB love-ins. All of this constant barrage of disinformation vitiates our national conversation; corrupts our capacity to make informed choices, surely? To say nothing of its power to inflame division.
MPs go into print or leak or go on air to “get the message out”, a spin about spin. And in our mainstream media spinners are winners. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Peter Dutton gets more than the odd nod of approval from Ray Hadley on 2GB.
Equally, no-one at SBS News, News Corp or ABC would be so naff as to challenge Angus Taylor on his strictly legal Liberals gag nor his hilarious punchline about “retaining” an abused and long-lost public trust. But it may tear the guts out of our body politic.
Trust is not so easy to talk up. Only around a third of Australians trust any government; most observers and studies suggest that fraction is declining. Save your breath, Taylor.
The Edelman Trust Barometer, for example, an 18-year annual study of attitudes across 28 countries towards government, non-government organisations, business and the media suggest most of us distrust Taylor’s spin. It’s a tribute to our discernment, surely, despite all the fashionable hand-wringing on The Drum, Q&A and other host-controlled, “balanced” “panel shows”, where we mourn our loss of trust in our unworthy leaders.
Our nation leads the world in growing scepticism about those in charge. Commendably, Australia and Singapore are the only two countries to have “declined in trust” across all four institutions this year: Australia’s trust in NGOs is 48%, business 45%, government 35% and media 31%.
Angus is clearly wasting his time hoping we’ll just accept his claim that Liberals are lawful. Tell that to the Australian Workers Union (AWU), whose offices in Sydney and in Melbourne were illegally raided by The Australian Federal Police, on instruction from the newly established Registered Organisation Commission (ROC) last October.
Josh Bornstein, of law firm Maurice Blackburn, who is taking the federal government to court, contends, on his client’s behalf, “That the raid conducted by the AFP was illegal; and That the investigation by the ROC is illegal because it is politically motivated.”
Illegal and politically motivated? It’s almost standard government procedure. It’s the essence of our immigration policy and practice or border protection, for example.
1287 people suffer illegal detention within Australia. 2000 more remain in offshore detention in conditions designed to break their spirit, conditions which the UNHCR has described as “tantamount to torture”. Taylor would have us believe this lawful?
His government itself has been forced to concede it has breached its duty of care of 2000 refugees and asylum-seekers, illegally detained in horrific conditions from 2012 to 2016. Each received a settlement, last June, an admission of culpability by the Australian government, Taylor claims is always law-abiding.
He would do well to talk to the people of Iraq whose nation we illegally invaded and whose lives we helped to destroy at the bidding of our great and powerful friend the US on the pretext of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, a decision made by former PM John Howard who claimed, falsely, to have obtained a legal ruling
Clearly he’s forgotten when former Liberal Party honorary Federal Treasurer, Michael Yabsley spilled his guts in May 2016 about how he knew donations made through the Free Enterprise Foundation (FEF) were illegal and how the FEF was designed to circumvent rules about donations from property developers.
$250,000 from property developer Brickworks and $150,000 from Westfield Corporation were amongst the banned donations. The funds helped the NSW Liberal Party win the state’s 2011 election campaign.
Taylor’s crazy-lame denial-confirmation is another bombshell in a shocking week in which Donald Trump goes postal, provoking a world trade war with his tariff madness, imposing $60 billion on Chinese imports. Trade wars are good, Trump intones, as financial markets sink and the prospect a trans-Pacific trade war rises.
Trump also sacks Lt Gen H.R. McMaster, his sanest, most capable adviser in a White House of sycophants and buffoons, to appoint gonzo ambassador John Bolton, whom Fox describes both as “a bull-dog” and “a hawk”. To the non-Fox fraternity, Bird-Dog Bolton is a Neocon war-monger, one of the brains behind the 2003 illegal US invasion of Iraq.
While dark shafts of data mining allegations undercut the Tasmania and South Australian election results after revelations from Cambridge Analytica, Royal Commissioner, former High Court Judge Ken Hayne and his amazing assistant Rowena Orr QC steal the show in the national political theatre this week, by asking the banks all the right questions and demanding honest answers.
Clearly, they’ve done their research. They know exactly what they’re looking for.
Catch their performance in the brilliant Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. It has a few weeks to run.
So far it proves comprehensively just how much the government lies when it tells us ASIC is as good as a Royal Commission need because we already had ASIC – the Clayton’s corporate regulator you have when you are not having a corporate regulator.
CEOs have been forced to admit lending money to people who clearly didn’t have the capacity to repay, for example. The borrowers’ expenses were simply never checked.
The nation is delighted by news, this week, however that our government’s grovelling to the US is paying “yuge” dividends. We’ve cut a deal on aluminium and steel. A hundred years of mateship has helped us get an exemption from bad new tariffs.
Or has it? Echoing cringing, John “Winston” Howard’s servile, fawning, Malcolm Turnbull’s craven US arse-licking helps only, bigly, to normalise the monster-baby in The White House. And appease the enfant terrible. Donald cuts loose.
The deal turns out to be “a temporary measure”, we learn Friday, until we can show what else we can do to further American interests. What else can we do?
Despite the 23 Chapters, 4 Annexes, and 27 side letters of our free trade agreement with the US, AUSTFA furthers US interests. The US trade surplus with Australia, under the 2005 deal, grew from $14 to almost $25 billion in ten years.
ANU’s Peter Drysdale estimates that “Australia alone has suffered trade losses from AUSFTA, the annual equivalent of the current price of around 18 Japanese, German, Swedish or French submarines through this deal”
The New York Times reports that Trump decamps to Mar a Largo “after a head-spinning series of presidential decision on national security, trade and the budget” that Washington reels while White House staff still in work freak out.
Trump’s so up, that he wants to show Kim Jong-Un, just how much his “nuclear button is bigger than anyone else’s” by nuking North Korea. The Donald also gets a little global trade war happening; threatens the entire world economy.
Are we to blame? We’ve pumped the Trump at every opportunity, no wonder he’s taking no other advice. Golf buddy, Greg Norman signs a letter. Joe Hockey who knows the ropes, pulls strings while in the land of The Oz, Merry Gerry Henderson gushes how “clever and cunning” Trump really is.
“He does not read much but he is highly intelligent”. Stable, genius, Trump’s disruption, furthermore, works to Australia’s advantage. Or does it?
“America First becomes America alone” McMaster has warned as Trump triggers total global trade war, this week. Trump sulks. Where are those yes men when you need them?
At last he gets staff who understand him. Enter Joltin’ John Bolton, so far stage right, he even frightens the alt-right. But he does love the Russians.
Selfless, compassionate to a fault, as Fairfax big notes Big Mal’s 2016 counselling of old family friend James Packer, currently laid so low by the black dog of despair that he must stand down from the family money laundering firm, no-one pretends that pumping up Trump’s tyres is solely for the dotard’s benefit.
Of course, reprising “lying rodent Howard”, our current PM, will do anything to boost his stocks at home. His 30th dud Newspoll moves inexorably closer, with another dud.
The latest Newspoll of 1597 voters, the 29th published late Sunday in the Australian, also shows Labor’s primary vote climbing to 39 per cent against the coalition’s unchanged 37 percent. Labor’s first preference vote has not been as high since Mr Turnbull ousted Mr Abbott in September 2015.
July 2, 2016 is the last time his government led Labor in Newspoll on a two-party-preferred basis – the day of the last federal election.
Bill Shorten’s satisfaction rating is 34 per cent, two points ahead Mr Turnbull’s 32 percent. The preferred PM is pretty well neck and neck on 36 to 39 when you allow the poll’s margin of error.
Malcolm needs to talk to Angus Taylor. He’ll explain how no-one in the Liberal Party would ever do anything improper. How the Party’s integrity and legality has won it the public’s trust. You just need a massively deep data-mining exploration to discover it.