CFA Chief Officer Steven Warrington on disaster management and 2016/17 fire season | AUDIO

CFA Chief Office Steve Warrington speaks at the Rural Press Club of Victoria
CFA Chief Office Steve Warrington speaks at the Rural Press Club of Victoria

CFA Chief Officer Steven Warrington discusses his community-centred approach to emergency management, and Victoria’s upcoming fire season, at a special lunch at Laharum, near Horsham, on Wednesday, October 19, 2016.

Steven was appointed CFA Chief Officer on June 30 after a 35-year career in emergency management that started as a volunteer firefighter.

Rural Press Club of Victoria and Women in Media: Communicating in a digital age | AUDIO

Emma Field, Laura Poole, Lynne Smith, Emily Rayner and Julia Keady-Blanch
Emma Field, Laura Poole, Lynne Smith, Emily Rayner and Julia Keady-Blanch

Communicating in a digital age; what it means for work life balance, traditional storytelling and managing the personal versus the professional.

How do you cut through in an era soaked in storytelling? A panel of Gippsland women, experienced in telling stories through print, broadcast and social media platforms, share their experiences.

Your hosts are Walkey-award winning Weekly Times journalist Emma Field and ABC Gippsland chief of staff Laura Poole. Your panel includes experienced journalists, mentors, trainers and social change agents who have built on a career in the media, and found work, life balance in the rolling deadlines of a digital environment.

Lynne Smith: Lynne has worked in the media sector throughout her working life. After editing Gippsland‘s largest newspaper, the Latrobe Valley Express, for 12 years, and spending eight years as general manager of The Gippsland Times, Lynne is now sharing her experience as a mentor and trainer of establishing journalists.

Emily Rayner: Emily has leadership experience in the commercial radio world as well as being the highest-level female at Fairfax Media’s The Weekly Review, where she oversees the magazine’s digital print and social media channels. She’s on maternity leave with her second child, so knows all about “the juggle”.

Julia Keady-Blanch: Julia spent the first 10 years of her career working in media and has spent the last 10 years working on large-scale social change projects and developments. She leads XFACTOR, a platform that supports a ratio of work life balance that works for her, but also supports flexible employment for women around the country.

Recorded in Gippsland at joint Rural Press Club of Victoria and Women in Media event September 16, 2016.

Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy at the Rural Press Club of Victoria | AUDIO

Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy
Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy

Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy explains his vision for rural and regional Victoria.

Recorded on February 18, 2016 at the Rural Press Club of Victoria.

Tax data reveals low income growth in western Victoria

HAMILTON’S income growth is in the bottom 15 per cent of Victorian postcodes and the immediate area has lost hundreds of net taxpayers over 10 years.

Australian Tax Office data shows that the Hamilton 3300 postcode recorded an almost 44.8 per cent increase in mean taxable income between 2003/04 and 2013/14.

That sounds impressive but the figures reveal that Hamilton was surpassed in income growth by almost 490 of the 573 Victoria postcodes tracked in the ATO data.

The top 15 per cent of postcodes saw their taxable income grow by between 68 and 123 per cent

The Hamilton postcode also recorded an 8.46 per cent decline in the number of people filing a return with net payable tax in 2013/14 compared with ten years earlier, when 6535 local people paid tax.



Roads a priority

The Hamilton Spectator – October 31, 2015

SOUTH-WEST COAST state by-election candidates have all agreed that
local roads are in a terrible state, especially around the Macarthur and
Condah areas that have seen heavy freight use in recent years.
Most of the 10 candidates that spoke to The Spectator about local transport issues this week have advocated for a new system of funding allocation for road works, with many calling for an end to temporary ‘patch ups’.
South-West Coast goes to the polls today, but 42 per cent of voters have already cast their ballot by pre-poll or postal vote.

Liberal candidate Roma Britnell and Nationals candidate Michael Neoh both called for the return of the $160 million ‘Country Roads and Bridges’ program, which provided funds to local governments.

“The community are saying that roads are bad and I agree 100 per cent,” Ms Britnell said.

“But over the last 16 years the Liberals have been in government for four, with Labor in for 12.”

Ms Britnell said the previous Coalition Government had “committed $2.6
million to Myamyn-Macarthur Rd, which Labor pulled.”

A spokesperson for Victoria’s Roads Minister said previously that “two
locations along Myamyn-Macarthur Rd, totalling 1.7km of road, will be
resurfaced in 2015/16.”

Mr Neoh said the Country Roads and Bridges Program should return, but
with $80 million spent over 12 months instead of two years.

“I have asked Jim Cooper from Port of Portland what his priority is and he
said it was the roads outside Portland,” Mr Neoh said.

“Talking to people from those areas, I have also heard the need for emergency repairs.

“I’m calling for half of (Country Roads and Bridges) to be pushed
forward into the first 12 months. There needs to be emergency repairs before we even get to upgrades.”

Independent candidate, Roy Reekie, who has run for Labor in the past, said one of the three key points in his transport plan was “proper investment and repair of roads, not just patch ups”.

Another of his key points was to “get more freight off roads and onto rail”.

“Now we are starting to have B-triples up to 75 tonnes. The roads not designed for this and it’s tearing them apart,” he said.

Greens candidate Thomas Campbell called for a survey of local road quality, combined with consultations with community members and industries, to help direct roads funding.

“Realistically, you have got to find a balance between making our roads safe for cars and trucks, and getting more freight onto rail,” he said.

“We can’t keep building roads endlessly if we can’t maintain all of the ones we have,” Mr Campbell said.

Independent candidate Pete Smith said he had proven and award-winning
experience in securing roads funding, which was needed as local roads were “appalling”.

“I have driven on them myself. They are not just appalling, they are downright dangerous,” he said.

“The situation is exactly the same in many other electorates, but the
marginal areas will get money before we do. The Coalition assumes they
have got it in the bag and Labor is not even trying.”

“Stop treating by-elections like a football game by barracking for your
old team; put your family’s welfare first.”

Mr Smith said that when he was a director of RAC South Australia, he worked on what he called “the largest roads funding campaign in Australia’s history”.

He received a national award for helping boost Victoria’s grant road
share from $2.6m in 1991/92 to $103m in 1994/95.

“I know how to get roads funding. People say ‘I’m going to get more
roads funding’, but I’ve actually done it,” he said.

Independent candidate Rodney Van De Hoef said the speed limit along
the main road at Condah should be reduced from 100 to 80 kilometres per hour as “it’s dangerous for community and those crossing the road”.

“The government will put up 80km/h for a bump in the road, why not this
intersection of major roads?”

Mr Van De Hoef also proposed to get more freight on rail by with an “intermodal/bulk freight hub at Heywood” that could also store shipping containers for the Port of Portland.

Independent candidate Swampy Marsh called for a protest campaign
aimed at the Victorian Premier and Parliament House.

“I’d hold (Premier) Daniel Andrews down by the throat until he promises
to listen,” Mr Marsh said. “You can have all the policies in the world but it won’t matter if people don’t listen.”

Mr Marsh said South-West Coast was in danger of falling behind in
funding because “the government won’t even run a candidate; they haven’t backed Roy Reekie, their losing candidate for the last four elections”.

“If it stays a Liberal seat, they won’t care. It’s got to be independent. You
have got to make them scared,” he said.

“You and I both know that the state of the roads is appalling, but we have
had 26 years of Liberal members, including 10 years in government, and they have done nothing.

“They even had the Roads Minister’s seat in Polwarth, and the Premier’s
seat right next to him, and it didn’t change.”

Mr Marsh said the region “should get a dump truck full of bitumen and
take it to Parliament House” to get media attention because “Labor is too
city-centric, and the Liberals won’t get off their arses”.

Jim Doukas, of the Australian Country Party, said in the local region
“it’s got to the stage where both rods and rail are completely buggered”.

“The State (Government) and Feds, they only fund the big projects like
highways but they should fund everything,” he said.

“The roads in places like Condah, Macarthur and towards Hotspur,
they’ve got to be fixed.

“It’s gotten to the stage where you can’t say we’ll fix some of them because they all need fixing.”

Animal Justice Party candidate Jennifer Gamble said the Princes
Hwy should be duplicated and major works should occur on the Hamilton
Hwy because it was “dangerous” and “the road shoulders are a hazard”.

“I’ve just been to Hamilton and it was a bumpy drive,” she said
She also said the Macarthur area had “too many rough surface signs put
up” and needed road works instead.

Independent Michael McCluskey, said “nearly every single road in the
south west is in a state of disrepair”.

He proposed two things, one of which was “we have to prioritise
funding to get a system for upgrading roads” and the other was “get freight off trucks as part of the solution” as “one 18-wheeler is equivalent to 5000 cars”.

The Australian Christians party has not responded to a request for
comment from its candidate Lillian Len.

Glenelg River to stop flowing this summer

The Hamilton Spectator – October 15, 2015

THE Glenelg River’s upper sections are “quite likely” to stop flowing this summer and create impacts for the environment, agriculture and recreation users.

Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority chief executive Kevin Wood blamed “record low” rainfall for the likely river flow stoppage and said his organisation had reserves of water to help with its environmental responsibilities.

“We have experienced quite low rainfall,” he said.

“The last 12 months have seen record low

The State Government has also been provided with a water ‘snapshot’ report that predicts that the Glenelg and Wimmera rivers will likely stop flowing.

Wannon Water managing director Andrew Jeffers said any lack of Glenelg River water flow would not affect local customers and Hamilton’s reserves were more than double the predicted usage.

“Hamilton system customers are supplied with water from a very secure supply system sourced from streams in the southern Grampians catchment,” he said.

“If required during times of drought, Wannon Water also has an annual entitlement to 2,120 megalitres of water in Rocklands Reservoir, which can be transferred via the Hamilton- Grampians Pipeline to top up Hamilton storages.

“Wannon Water’s Rocklands Reservoir entitlement is also a source of water supply for Balmoral. Currently, Rocklands Reservoir is holding more than 62,000 megalitres of water and in 2014/201515 Wannon Water extracted only 46 megalitres to supply water for Balmoral customers.”

Mr Wood said rainfall rates had been in decline since the 2010 flood and that Rocklands Reservoir has been reduced to 21 per cent of its target level.

In response to lower reservoir levels, GWMWater had released only one per cent of its normal allowance for environmental flows.

Mr Wood said GHCMA had nine gigalitres of water “saved from previous years” and 3000 megalitres could be used to replenish deep pools and deal with water quality issues.

“We will concentrate on maintaining areas of native fish so that we can repopulate other areas when rainfall replenishes them,” he said.

Low rainfall over the long term, combined with a number of recent days with high temperatures, has had a devastating effect on some crops in Victoria, particularly in the Mallee region.

Mr Wood said that fl ow stoppages in the Glenelg River would also affect farmers using the water for livestock and dam replenishment and dry rivers would no longer act as natural barriers for livestock.

“I would advise recreational users to be careful with swimming and boats as water hazards will present larger risk of injury because water level is so low,” he said.

The National Party last week targeted Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville in Parliament, ridiculing a plan to use the $4 billion Wonthaggi desalination plant to help ease water shortages in country Victoria.

“It is astonishing that such a proposal would even be raised as a concept, as there is simply no pipeline that can deliver water from Wonthaggi to western Victoria,” Lowan MP Emma Kealy said.

“The minister has had to hastily backtrack and clarify that she does not want to truck desalinated water hundreds of kilometres across the state.”

Ms Kealy also criticised “the transfer of 5000 megalitres of water into the system’s dried-out secondary storage in Toolondo Reservoir”.

“Farmers downstream on the Glenelg River would love to have this quantity of water available right now to boost a system under stress
after a dry winter,” she said.

“Instead this water appears to be being lost to evaporation, thanks to the water minister’s transfer of it to Toolondo.”

Ms Neville had earlier retaliated by saying that Labor governments had built Victoria’s ‘water grid’ while the Coalition had their “heads in the sand” and were “wasting taxpayers’ money at the Office of Living Victoria.”

Farmers voice concern over proposed oil shale project

The Hamilton Spectator – September 24, 2015

SOUTH-West Victorian farmers have expressed concern about a proposed oil shale drilling project between Casterton and the South Australian border.

They say that their focus is on what will happen to food production over the next century, rather than the economic benefits over the lifespan of an unconventional oil or gas field, which can be as low as a few years.

The Spectator reported on Tuesday that a Melbourne-based industrial engineering and miner exploration company had told the Victorian Parliament’s gas inquiry it was “beyond doubt” that there was a prospective oil shale deposit in the south west.
Mecrus Resources wrote in a submission to the inquiry that it had “invested significant money to date in detailed exploration” and it believed the deposit was “world class” and could last 40 years.

The company has two exploration licences covering 1500 square kilometres between Strathdownie and Lake Mundi.

The exploration licence areas EL5298 and EL5297 in south-west Victoria, held by Mecrus Resources and believed by the company to contain 'world class' shale oil deposits. Graphic: JASON TULLY.
The exploration licence areas EL5298 and EL5297 in south-west Victoria, held by Mecrus Resources and believed by the company to contain ‘world class’ shale oil deposits. Graphic: JASON TULLY.

Mecrus will probably have to use the ‘fracking’ extraction technique to improve yields at the oil field if the project goes ahead, and there is the possibility of natural gas at the site as well.

The issue of fracking has generated a considerable groundswell of opposition, which includes many local farmers who see it as a threat to agriculture.

Mecrus has stated that a successful shale oil project would bring “massive flow on effects for local communities” in terms of new jobs and businesses.

With beef, lamb and wool prices at high levels, farmers are planning to tell Victorian MPs that there is a strong economic case to give priority to farming.

Byaduk North prime lamb and premium beef farmer Mal Rowe told The Spectator that “extremely productive agricultural land” was being put at risk from oil and gas development.

He said south-west Victorian pasture was averaging 20 sheep per hectare but Queensland and NSW could only manage one to three sheep per HA.

“We are adamant; we are not going to back off,” he said.

“There is a buyer who has been sourcing steers form this region for 25 years.

“They are sent to Japan as top-quality restaurant beef. He knows exactly what animals he is going to get.

“It would only take one thing to upset this.”

Mr Rowe believes that oil drilling between Casterton and South Australia would threaten aquifers that provide water for local towns and farms.

“You have got to look at the percentage of wells that will fail: about one per cent. I don’t know the number of wells they might drill but some of them will eventually fail and that will put aquifers at risk,” he said.

“Forever is a very long time; I know that wells are encased in a number of layers of steel and concrete but they will never be as strong as the substrates.”

Mr Rowe pointed to recent ‘Food Not Gas’ rallies across the region, which have attracted 100 to 300 people at each event, as evidence that many other locals shared his views.

Mecrus specifically mentioned local aquifers in its submission to Parliament, stating that “The oil shale is quite deep and it is significantly separated from any utilised groundwater aquifers”.

A number of local landowners, along with about 1000 people, attended an anti-gas rally in Melbourne on Sunday that called for a permanent ban on fracking and onshore unconventional gas.

Victoria currently has a temporary moratorium on most aspects of onshore gas but its future will be influenced by the inquiry that received Mecrus’s submission, along with 1700 others.

The inquiry was due to hold a hearing in Hamilton yesterday, with speakers from local Aboriginal groups, governments, farmers and Wannon Water.

Mr Rowe said he was “pleasantly surprised by the number of people and overwhelmed by the support we got from both country and city people”.

“There are so many people opposed to the development of an unconventional gas industry, right across Victoria from Gippsland and the south west.”

Mr Rowe said he would be willing to support a strict regulatory regime instead of a ban “but the compliance would have to be so high as to leave no doubt that it wouldn’t compromise agriculture”.

Petroleum industry lobby group APPEA has told the Victorian inquiry that an onshore unconventional gas industry would boost the economies and populations of country areas.

As mining jobs and investment slows down in Australia’s northern states, there was some interest from ex-locals in returning to the region if a similar industry took off.

Training course scam net could include our region

September 19, 2015

VOCATIONAL training promoters have been going door-to-door offering courses to vulnerable people in Warrnambool and Ballarat, leaving them deep in debt, and they may have also targeted Hamilton and Coleraine.

The Victorian Department of Education and Training says some training colleges are engaged in an “abuse” of a program that allows people to pay for their education with a Federal Government loan.

The Age newspaper this week published an investigation into training ‘brokers’ and door-to-door salesmen that were allegedly targeting disadvantaged people in country Victoria with promises of a better life through vocational courses.

Huge commissions are being offered to salesmen because the training college gets thousands of dollars in government-supplied fees upfront when a ‘student’ signs up.

A broker for a Melbourne-based training college allegedly told salesmen that they should target Housing Commission flats and other areas where residents would have no hope of ever repaying their debt the government under the FEE-HELP scheme.

Due to the huge profit margins for a successful sign-up, salesmen are offering ‘free’ laptops or iPad tablet computers to lure people into the deal.

This is despite a Federal Government ban on sign-up gifts that came into effect earlier this year.

Some new ‘students’ are being left with debts of up to $18,000 for training courses that they will have great difficulty in completing.

A Victorian Department of Education spokeswoman said “we are aware of activities where brokers have marketed VET FEE-HELP loans for training courses to people in Warrnambool”.

“The Department is aware of similar incidents in Ballarat but not in any other western Victorian communities. We have had complaints also in other regional communities over the past 12 months.

“These complaints have been referred to the national regulator, ASQA, and to the Federal Government.

“The Victorian Government has raised repeated concerns with the Federal Government about abuse of VET FEE-HELP loans and marketing practices by some providers.”

A couple from Euroa, who both have intellectual disabilities and struggle with reading and writing, told The Age that they were enrolled in vocational courses by a door-to-door salesman.

They claim the salesman coached them through the pre-enrolment literacy and numeracy tests.

a 'Scam Alert' uploaded to Wannon MP Dan Tehan's website on September 10
a ‘Scam Alert’ uploaded to Wannon MP Dan Tehan’s website on September 10

There is some evidence to suggest that the training course salesmen have targeted areas in south-west and western Victoria beyond the regional population centres.

One of The Spectator’s Facebook followers from Hamilton said she was targeted by a similar training course scam except that it took place over the phone.

On September 10 Wannon MP Dan Tehan posted a ‘Scam Alert’ on his website, writing that he had been “advised of a scam involving VET Fee Help Courses, operating particularly in the Coleraine area”.

“I have heard from a number of residents in Wannon that individuals are driving door to door taking personal information from people as part of a fake enrolment process under the guise of getting a free laptop. Personal information they are seeking includes your Driver’s Licence, Medicare card and your Tax File Number.

“If you encounter anyone who claims to be from a VET FEE HELP Course or Education provider, please do not provide them with any of your personal information or money. I would also encourage you to report any contact with the offenders to your local police.”

The Spectator asked Mr Tehan if this website post was connected to alleged rorts investigated by The Age.

Mr Tehan did not answer directly but highlighted previous federal regulation of training course salesmen and said greater penalties and restrictions would come into force next year.

“Since we came to government we have been working to ensure the system operates with greater security for students and less opportunity for manipulation,” Mr Tehan said.

“This has included the banning of inducements, banning course withdrawal fees, banning misleading statements around free courses, and providing greater compliance structures that include penalties for brokers and providers.

“In addition to the restrictions already being put in place, we will be banning the levying of the full debt load for courses in one hit and have the power to remit debt and recoup costs from providers with severe penalties from January 1, 2016.”

Hamilton Police Sergeant Paul Stanhope told The Spectator that no complaints had been received in the last two months concerning door-to-door training salesmen.

Put ‘bombing’ question to Defence Minister: Tehan

An RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet F/A-18A Hornet in the skies over Iraq. Photo: Department of Defence
An RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet F/A-18A Hornet in the skies over Iraq. Photo: Department of Defence

September 10, 2015

WANNON MP Dan Tehan has refused to comment directly on a United States Military Central Command report that suggested the Royal Australian Air Force may have bombed a civilian area in Iraq last year.

Mr Tehan did say that avoiding civilian casualties would be “a key consideration” if Australia decided to expand its campaign of airstrikes against terrorist group ISIS from Iraq into Syria.

Last week the website, in conjunction with the ABC, published a US CENTCOM report into suspected civilian causalities in Iraq and Syria caused by nations participating in the US-led bombing of ISIS.

The report revealed that the US and its allies had internally investigated dozens of events involving at least 325 possible civilian deaths from airstrikes.

The report covered the period from August 2014 to May 2015, during which 16,193 sorties were flown and bombs, cannons or missiles were used on 3837 of those missions.

According to the report, on December 21 last year “two unknown individuals may have been wounded as a result of a deliberate strike conducted by the Australians on a suspected weapons factory in Fallujah”.

“Approximately 10 minutes after the last weapon impact, a probable female and probable child were observed on FMV (Full Motion Video, likely filmed by drone or fighter jet) to walk through the target area.

“A probable male arrived and carried the child to a motorcycle and transported him to the Fallujah hospital.

“The female walked to the median strip on the road and lay down, and was not observed any further.”

The “allegation” was listed as “cleared” in the report and the findings were passed on to an Australian liaison officer.

“Assessed to be insufficient information to determine CIVCAS (civilian casualties),” the report stated.

“The lack of urgency and the fact that the child walked normally suggest his injuries were not life threatening.

“There was no Iraqi allegation of CIVCAS and CAOC (Combined Air and Space Operations Center, US Air Force base, Qatar) recommends that there is insufficient information to warrant further inquiry”

The report also noted that the Australian Defence Force had also investigated the incident and “reached a similar conclusion”.

During a press conference on Friday, Mr Tehan said he was “not aware of that report”.

“It would be better if that question was directed to the Defence Minister,” he said.

Mr Tehan was asked if the Australian Government would consider the risk of civilian casualties if the RAAF started airstrikes in Syria.

“That is always a key consideration that any government considers when it makes decision as to whether it should join military action in
any country,” he said.

“That aspect, the rules of engagement, is always something that is taken into consideration.”

Mr Tehan has been at the forefront of a recent push for Australia to expand its anti-ISIS air campaign to Syria on the grounds that the international border was providing a safe haven for terrorists.

Australia is already bombing ISIS in Iraq at the request of that nation’s government, and bombing Syria would present additional legal issues.

Mr Tehan was asked if there should be more transparency in regard to civilian casualties caused by the US-led Coalition’s bombing of Iraq and Syria.

“I think there is transparency,” Mr Tehan said.

“Those that we are fighting are the ones who do not like transparency; they do not like democratic principles. They are the ones that are acting in ways that, frankly, beggar belief.

“The current situation in Syria, where you have nine million people internally displaced, is the greatest humanitarian crises we have seen in the word, and in my personal view, it is a very strong reason as to why we need to act in Syria and why we need the international community to be doing more.”

The US report into suspected civilian causalities was originally designated ‘SECRET’ and was on restricted release to governments of ‘Five Eyes’ nations, which includes Australia.

The report was subsequently declassified and released to a US journalist under Freedom of Information laws.

The Australian Defence Force said in a statement to the ABC that a routine ‘battle damage assessment’ was conducted following the airstrike.

“The assessment was consistent with the reports detailed in the Iraq/Syria CIVCAS Allegation tracker released by US Central Command under FOI legislation,” the statement read.

“As there were no reports or claims of any casualties from Australian airstrikes, no further action was undertaken.”

Data retention is no threat to terrorists



The Hamilton Spectator – April 03, 2015

THE Mandatory Data Retention scheme that was passed by both houses of Australia’s Parliament last week represents the unholy trinity of bad legislation: rushed debate, unclear costs and no real solutions.


To make things clear, I am not a libertarian or anarchistic extremist who is calling for the end of all government surveillance.

Targeted surveillance has saved lives and will continue to save lives; it should be available to police and intelligence agencies though a system that is fast and flexible, but has appropriate safeguards and accountability.

On the other hand, retaining communications metadata on 23 million Australians is a form of mass surveillance that is unreasonable, expensive and ineffective.

The Government says it only wants access to the ‘envelope’ not the ‘letter’ inside, to use a 19th century analogy that has been widely employed by MPs.

Political strategy

The thin, artificial line between digital ‘envelopes’ and ‘letters’, applied to almost every form of modern communication, is a political strategy to make this mass surveillance more palatable to the general public.

As US intelligence service whistleblower Edward Snowden has stated, metadata is the most valuable part of mass surveillance because it cannot lie, it can be processed automatically by a computer and it does not need language translation.

Under Mandatory Data Retention, the government can tell that you called a doctor’s office and a sexual health clinic in the last two years but it doesn’t know what you talked about.

It can tell you called your accountant, your financial adviser and a ‘money lender of last resort’ all in one day but it can’t tell what the issue was.

It can tell that you called a marriage counsellor and a removalist, received an email from a last-minute hotel booking service and started using your phone on the other side of town, but it can’t tell the health of your relationship.


It will record which towns and suburbs you have visited with your mobile phone over the last two years, sometimes at a minute-by- minute level of detail, but this isn’t ‘real-time tracking’ according to Wannon MP Dan Tehan.

It make use of all these powers without a warrant using legislation that predates the sale of home computers, and will have the amplified power of two years’ worth of records.

A lengthy record of whom you communicate with, who communicates with you, and when and where this all happens, is hugely revealing even if you aren’t a journalist or whistleblower.

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the US Government is considering an end to mass phone metadata retention as an internal review had found it “not central to unravelling terrorist plots”.

American civil liberties groups claimed that the only identifiable conviction that has come to light from phone metadata alone was for a taxi driver who sent $15,000 to a terrorist group in Somalia.

If Mandatory Data Retention offered even a faint hope of combating terrorism it would be much easier to support, but the international experience is that it has only increased crime clearance rates by 0.006 per cent.

Considerable damage

That tiny increase, about 100 times less than what might be considered statistically significant, will be achieved at the cost of the presumption of innocence and considerable damage to Australia’s tech sector.

Under the most generous estimate, about half the costs will be passed directly on to consumers; it is a new tax of at least $120 per year for the privilege of being spied on.

It is another broken promise from Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The Labor Party deserves equal blame, both for supporting the legislation and for letting the concept gain significant ground under former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2012.

The rise of the so-called Islamic State and its brainwashed young followers in the suburbs of Australia were used to justify the latest reincarnation of mandatory data retention.

However, Islamic State has already distributed an easy-to- follow internet security guide to its members and sympathisers that renders Data Retention completely useless.

The horror of the Charlie Hebdo magazine killings in Paris was also invoked by Mr Tehan despite France already having a robust mandatory data retention scheme, which manifestly failed to prevent the attack.

Even the Chinese Communist Party, which has both metadata and content surveillance built into China’s internet and pays about 100,000 people to monitor online conversations, has failed to prevent all terrorist attacks.

More arrests

When those aims failed to cut through to voters, the list of claimed benefits was expanded to include more arrests of drug traffickers and paedophiles.

The Australian Federal Police had already let slip that the system would help civil lawsuits against those who share Hollywood films on the internet, a trivial offence in comparison.

When you look past the spin, there is no real urgency to this law as it has been languishing around Canberra for at least seven years and will not be implemented for at least two years.

Listening to the rhetoric from the Coalition and Labor, it was as if passing the Bill would force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and telcos to simply hit a switch and instantly retain records.

Prior to the widespread adoption of the internet it was only feasible to protect your electronic communications if you had been trained by a spy agency or worked for a major corporation.

One of the first free military-grade encryption applications was released in 1991, and since 2002 it has been possible to mask your identity online using relatively simple software.

For any kind of criminal, let alone a terrorist, avoiding Data Retention will be even easier than installing a software package.

“Smart criminals”

Attorney General George Brandis has conceded that “smart criminals” may be able to get round his new surveillance system.

If you can figure out how to sign up for popular email services such as Yahoo or Gmail, or a social network like Facebook, then congratulations: Senator Brandis now considers you “smart”.

The Australian Government has no power to force overseas communications providers to store useless data, and so it hasn’t even tried.

According to internationally- respected magazine, The Economist, mobile messaging apps will be technology’s latest battleground.

However, in this new technology race Australia has already started to slash its own Achilles tendons with Data Retention.

The massive cost of creating and storing data that is useless for commercial purposes will scare off any group considering launching messaging apps, or even local offshoots, in Australia.

Almost all the jobs, investment and tax revenue from mobile messaging boom will flow to countries that have never instigated mandatory data retention, or have wisely decided to abolish it.

Bear the brunt

Even humble email services are likely to depart these shores, with only the biggest of Australia’s hundreds of ISPs likely to bear the brunt of data retention.

Google’s Gmail is standing by to offer cheap, encrypted, overseas- based and data retention-exempt email for businesses.

The lion’s share of economic benefits will flood to Silicon Valley in California, not Australia’s ‘Silicon Beach’.

Data Retention will create jobs, but mostly they will be in other nations with cheaper power and labour costs for warehousing hard drives.

Detailed information on your everyday life will be kept overseas by the lowest bidder, except for Telstra, which has pledged to store it locally.

If you or your children are planning to study for an IT course, it might be worth asking Mr Tehan why the Australian Government has opted to make it much harder to get a tech job in this country.

It is such as shame that the Coalition chose this path, having gotten off to a great start last year by announcing tax reforms that aim to encourage local entrepreneurs and investors to launch new tech ‘startups’.

Mandatory Data Retention represents an incredible back flip for a party that claims to stand for the ideals of more freedom and jobs, with less regulation.


Note: About four months after this piece was published, ABC reporter Will Ockenden requested his own smartphone metadata from a telecommunications provider. He published the results and then asked ABC viewers to analyse the raw metadata to see what they could learn about him. A week later they provided a “scarily accurate” profile of his physical movements during a 12-month time period.