“Failure and incompetence”:
Mark Newton on surveillance reforms


blog At Delimiter we love a good rant, especially if it’s about the tragically flawed understanding which our Federal Government and attendant politicans appear to have about technology. And this one, by network engineer Mark Newton (he’s got form in this area) is a cracker. Newton’s target is the Orwellian package of surveillance measures proposed by the Federal Attorney-General’s Department. On New Matilda, he writes:

“If rational minds were in charge, last week’s announcement by the government of an inquiry into potential reforms of National Security Legislation would be seen as an admission of failure and incompetence from Australia’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Every year they make nebulous hand-waving gestures about undefined, secret threats that will befall Australia if they don’t get their own way, and every year spineless politicians give them everything they say they need.”

It’s hard to disagree with Newton. Over the past decade I’ve watched government bodies such as the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (hello, Internet filtering) and Australian Federal Police try repeatedly to implement the same draconian reforms to monitor and control all of Australia’s access to telecommunications and content services, irrespective of what side of politics is currently in power. These groups especially, it seems, are frustrated by the Internet and its powers, and want to try to curb those powers whenever possible. The only problem is, the direct threat such government regulation poses to Australia’s civil liberties and democracy. You know. The little things.

Thanks Mark, for putting all of this in the ridiculous perspective it deserves, yet again.

Image credit: Star Trek: The Next Generation


  1. I remember the great public debate back in the 1980’s when Hawke’s Labor government were pushing for the introduction of the “Australia Card”. A main part of their argument for it introduction was privacy protections it would have and that only 4 government agencies were going to have access to the data. The Australian Federal Police, Australian Tax Office, Medicare and the then Department of Social Security (now Centrelink). One of the public debates that went on at the time was attended by the then pop-singer Peter Garrett who claimed he had discovered hidden amongst the white papers that another 44 government agencies had indicated that they had submitted an expression of interest in being included with the aforementioned agencies in also having access to the data to be held in the central database. I am not absolute about the exact figures as I would have to go back and research archives from the time. Anyway, it was eventually dumped and replaced by the Tax File No. with definite limitations and penalties for it’s misuse. In another 2 1/2 years, the Cabinents papers at the time (1985?) will be released from the protection of the 30 year quarantine and the real truth will be know just went on behind closed doors.

    The only difference this time around will be that our government agencies are seeking to emulate the USA’s Department of Homeland Security flawed sytem of intellligence gathering . God help us all.

  2. He’s right. “Must! Have! More! Powers!” is the continuous cry from authorities all over the country (in company with “Must! Have! More! Funds!”, “Must! Have! More! Staff!”, and “Must! Have! More! Toys!”). No matter what they have, they always need more. More powers over us. Never hear any talk about how WE need more powers over THEM. Because our various governments don’t represent us. It’s going to end badly. I’m glad I’m old.

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